Funds for All & All for Funds

Welcome to my blog! I'd like you to consider this an interactive space for sharing information, successes, ideas, strategies, and links to help us all raise more funds for nonprofits.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SEO for Nonprofits

Websites, donations, direct mail, newsletters, blog, brochures--how to make it all fit together?

For nonprofit organizations the new world of social media--fitting it all together seamlessly--is worse than a five-hundred-piece jigsaw puzzle. And the acronym SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is harder to grasp than a term in a foreign language. At least there's Babelfish for translating foreign languages!

But SEO is one of the keys to the onine kingdom, and online is increasingly where donations happen. SEO involves how you design your website so someone can find it, using the magic of strategically placed keywords that put your site in the first page of a Google search. Because if you're found on page 45, it's like not being found at all. But if you're Number Four n the first page, you're going to get a lot of newcomers browsing around your website. And that's partly why you have one, right?

I'm no SEO expert, but I know that this hidden dimension is often neglected when setting up a nonprofit's website. Here are a few sites that explain more:

The Nonprofit's Guide to SEM

Wild Apricot Blog (a great blog for many issues nonprofits deal with)

SEO Copy-writing Tips

And here's something you should also check out--Google Grants:

Google Grants

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Getting record returns for a mailing

I'm happy to report that one of my year-end mailings is garnering record returns for the nonprofit organization. Of course, many factors play a part in the success or failure of a solicitation mailing, but one of them, I believe, is bringing together the right content and visuals to the right list.

The secret here is know your house list well. It's not a static commodity. Studying your database, keeping detailed notes, and reviewing the notes and other characteristics of your donorbase periodically helps tighten your focus. Who are these people you're writing to? What do they want to know about your agency? And what moves them to give?

So much of the conventional wisdom about direct mail is dated and generalized. For example, knowing that 90% of the audience into which we mailed this record-return letter was religious, but that that figure was down from previous percentage for that donorbase, helped to make the decision to modify the religious tone, so as to be more inclusive of non-religious people in the donorbase. That extra percentage may have responded more vigorously than before because the appeal was broadened to make them feel more included.

In times like these, when every edge you can get can make a big difference, it pays to analyze your donorbase often and to try new things.

Happy year-end mailings and returns! (And don't forget to send the follow-up letter a few weeks after the main mailing to those who didn't respond. Email me for wording ideas.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Raising last-minute dollars at year's end

New media can provide last-minute appeal platforms or vehicles for follow-ups to mailed solicitations. Text messages, social media pages, Twitter posts, and email blasts are tools that can cut delivery time and add another "ping" to your year-end fundraising campaign.

It's a little late for DIY action, if you don't already have vehicles in place, but anyone can easily learn to add a Facebook page or Twitter account for their nonprofit organization. And for the next campaign, there are businesses that assist nonprofits in using mobile and social media. Here are a couple to look into for an early start next year:

Mobile Giving

Constant Contact


The best way to reach the most important donors on your list? Get all the staff and volunteers your can get together for a holiday card writing party and hand-address and sign some cards to thank donors for their past support. Don't forget to include a reply envelope!! You might be surprised at the returns gratitude brings.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In the Mail? Getting Returns?

I've just worked on seven different mailings for nonprofits in the last two months, the usual fall crush of everyone trying to get a mailer our before Thanksgiving.

I hope your organization is already in the mail and will soon start getting year-end donations, but if you're not, here are some ideas for a last-minute save. Thanks to some of my clients and colleagues for the ideas.

* Print a double-sided flyer on colored paper, or if you have a lot of brochures in stock, use those, and approach a local newspaper or free sales flyer about inserting them to support your good cause. If you include your website for making donations (you do have a page for online donations, don't you?), you may pick up enough new donors to make the modest expenditure more than worthwhile, if you consider the follow-up gifts you'll get from about 50% of these new donors.

* Approach local stores and ask them to stock your flyers or brochures, being sure to insert either a donation envelope or the URL of your website for donations.

* Send a January mailing, mentioning that a deductible donation is deductible in any year it's made. You'll find your mailer one of the few in the mailbox in that month. Many of my clients who do January mailings find it's the most profitable mailing of the year! (People are so busy at the holiday season a lot of fundraising appeals get lost in the shuffle.)

If you have some other ideas, post them here. It would be great if we could compile a list of these ideas. I'd be happy to host it on my website.

Happy many returns!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Good article on budgets and LOIs for grant proposals has a clear and easy-to-follow article on how to prepare a budget for a grant proposal to a foundation.

The article has a link to another piece on how to write a winning letter of inquiry (sometimes called a letter of interest or letter of intent -- always an "LOI"). I especially like the point it makes that the heading and the first sentence must be very well written, compelling, and make clear what it is you're proposing to do.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Older vs. Younger Donors: Which Ball to Keep Your Eye On?

The answer, of course, is both. Older donors go away because they die, but have deeper pockets and are more in tune with humanitarian realities. But younger people are getting in tune with giving at earlier ages than ever before, and a lifetime giving habit can be formed and become a strong base of support.

Here are a couple of interesting and CURRENT articles on these topics (beware articles on younger donors dated 2006 or something similarly dates):

Serious fun - how to reach young donors

Not-for-profits Reach Out to Younger Donors and Volunteers

The bottom line: as the IBJ article quotes Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy: “They [nonprofits] are looking for ways to have a multi-prong approach to different cohorts and generations in ways that speak to each generation without affecting the others."

In other words, don't neglect your direct mail campaign to pump up your social media presence, or vice versa. It's an excellent argument (says this author, somewhat self-servingly) for hiring outside help with your donor communications. The work has just doubled. No one development executive can cover all the new territory with the same old number of hours in a week.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

If your nonprofit organization isn't in the mail or inbox by now ...

You still have a couple of weeks to hit the sweet spot of the fundraising season in the mail. And mail, of course, no longer just means paper in mailboxes, but can now mean e-mailings, e-newsletters, blogs with links to your donations page, or a mashup of social networking posts with video or audio.

Communication is key in this pressured economy, sending a missive like a missile that penetrates the blather of advertising and appeals with a sharp call to make a difference to real people.

Here are some organizations that get it right, the mix of direct mail, Facebook, Twitter, blog, website, e-newsletter, and donation page that is the media mix we all live within:

Project Open Hand

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano

Walnut Creek Library Foundation

And here's one that has a little too much going on, and could use a Facebook page and Twitter link. But they have a good first page and print mailing program, plus an e-mailing program:

Center for Early Intervention on Deafness

I've received print mailings from these nonprofits recently that point to their web presence, linking all the forms of communication a donor might be comfortable with, giving them options for responding.

Note that the first screens of their sites link social networking, donations pages, and offers to sign up for e-newsletters and e-mailing lists, along with their basic mission statement, in easy-to-spot locations. One-stop donations shopping for the holidays!

Your thoughts? I'd like to hear about your experience in the mail this season, your mashups, and other forms of successful fundraising communications.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Searching Smart for grants

Do you make the best use of the premier resource for grantseeking from private and community foundations, The Foundation Center? They offer great tutorials for searching in their extensive database of foundations, but not everyone uses some of the tools that give in-depth information, such as the Form 990 tax returns foundations file annually, listing all the grants they've made for the year. This detailed and current information will help you determine the right amount to ask for, the geographic spread of grants in recent years, and whether the foundation tends to make repeated grants to the same organizations.

Searching smart saves time, narrows the focus, and helps eliminate exaggerated expectations about the amount of grant funding that might be available for a given project or nonprofit. More on searching smart in the next installment.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Twitter for Funds

Nonprofits should take note of the power of Twitter for building a base of support. It's an avenue for communicating with your constituency in a way that no other medium offers.

Gina Schreck's book Gettin Geeky witt Twitter is a great resource for learning about tweeting. A Facebook page for your cause is a must, but it's a static vehicle. You have to drive traffic to it, and Twitter is one way to do that.

More on this soon.

Also, guest blogger and ace fundraising consultant David Jamieson will be joining this blog soon with a series of articles. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Social networking and nonprofits -- a good match?

When raising funds you can get desperate, and that's when the newest thing can sound so sexy as to pose a single solution to all your nonprofit's fiscal woes. But new technology often just masks old problems like a deteriorating donor base, confusion between p.r. and fundraising, and a diminishing donor renewal rate. Whether you communicate with your donors and prospects online, in print, or on television or radio, one-way communication is passive. Direct marketing principles of engaging the reader hold true in any medium. Social networking can be simply direct mail in a spiffy new envelope, if you approach it as doing the same old things a letter does.

When social networking and the new interactive media become powerful is when they connect to build momentum of visibility and heighten interest in your cause. Linking new technologies and old can help your organization gain dynamism by increasing the number of times a prospect or donor becomes aware of it and sees something to interest her or him.

Want to harness the power of online media to your nonprofit? Make them all work together. This is a rather absurd example -- a micro-example, if you will -- but I have a blog about poetry (, if you must know) from which I can tweet using a nice little program called Tweetboard, meaning I never have to leave Blogger. Once I've blogged and tweeted to drive people to the blog entry, I go to Facebook and use their Links mechanism to bring my FB friends to by blog. So Twitter and Facebook friends all know that I've added a new entry, and briefly what it's about. On top of that, I add an announcement on an 800-member listserv I belong to, with the links. It doesn't sound simple, but I can do it all in under 30 minutes. That means it could be done daily, or certainly weekly. has a nice article about using social networking to support your nonprofit cause. I urge you not to think of it as a panacea or replacement for the conventional guidelines of good, old-fashioned fundraising, but as new tools in the fundraising toolkit. The more tools, the better built the house will be.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Direct mail and the new economy

Fundraising mailers are finding acquisition of new donors a tough go in the new economic climate. But if an organization doesn't continually replace lapsed donors with new ones, its constituency shrinks and the donations ultimately dry up.

What to do?

One approach might be to take a lesson from the wild success of the Obama campaign's direct mail strategy. This article covers three basic points that have to do with the synergy of traditional postal mail and online approaches. The campaign shattered fundraising records with small donations raised through a combination of technologies.

Focusing on new donors who are willing to make small donations is a winning strategy in a down economy. Once on board, new donors will receive (if you are wise in your mailing program) more information about your organization that will increase their sense of loyalty and encourage them to increase their donations as the economy eases up. Getting a first-time donor at a net loss is a rule of thumb these days. Don't be afraid to spend the money. A new donor is a prospective planned gift donor, a lifetime donor, and possibly a major donor. Even a donation of $5 should be treated with respect in these times.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Grants and the new economy

With a prolonged recession and the plunge of the stock market came a diminishment of private foundation endowments, as we all know in the fundraising field. Now that the market is ticking upward again, looking like the only healthy sector of the economy (leaving aside big pharma), grantmaking is beginning to show signs of life once more. Grantmakers, however, have had a long period of soul-searching. This means that nonprofits seeking grants from non-government sources would do well to redo their basic prospecting. Yes, a whole new search! It's a great time to discover new sources of grant funding by redoing the search through the Foundation Center, local and regional news, Google searches, and networking through your board members.

For everything old is new again. Forget that stuff about there being nothing new under the sun. Under the grants sun, everyone in the position of disbursing grant funds has new ideas.

I'd love to hear about your experience in seeking grants from private and corporate foundations this last 12 months. My experience is that foundations that were tried and true sources for my clients reduced or refused grants many were counting on and new sources popped up. Does this ring any bells?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Blogging as a fundraising tool

I will admit I'm just doing a little brainstorming here. Most of the blogging that I see connected with nonprofit organizations could be characterized as "staff meeting." It's inward-directed, not written as if people outside the organization had any reason to read it.

I'm going to propose that you approach blogging for your nonprofit cause as, basically, direct mail. And I always tell my clients to approach direct mail as a phone call to your best supporter. Tell her or him everything about what's important that's going on, what you're planning or thinking about planning for the organization -- and this is the way in which blogging is oh-so-superior to direct mail -- ask them what they think.

Don't just blah-blah at them, don't just ask, just ask them what they think and what they like about what you're doing. Run polls and surveys. Ask for feedback and suggestions. Make them partners! has a good article on how to blog as a nonprofit in a way that makes sense.

And send me YOUR ideas about how blogging can help increase and enhance support for your cause.

After all, this is a dialogue.

Happy New Year -- and may your funds increase exponentially!!