16 Provocative Ideas That Will Raise More Money

I am just back from an intense 4 days at the AFP International Fundraising Conference.

And I listened to some of fundraising’s most brilliant – and provocative –  leaders.  Here’s what’s on the mind of some of our smartest thinkers.

Do consider these ideas NOW. They may go against your typical practices.

But I promise, absolutely, that you will raise more money if you implement them.

1. Go All Out for Monthly Donors On Your Home Page.

Monthly donors are worth gold to you. On average, they will stay for 10 YEARS. Put the ask right on your home page.

The ideal monthly appeal ties a monthly ask to something specific. “$31 a month will do xxxx.”  Harvey McKinnon

2. Focus on Fewer – Not More Donors.

You don’t make more money by having more donors. The more donors you accumulate – the less profitable your fundraising program. (Penelope Burk)

3. Encourage Restricted Giving.

Restricted asks raise more money. Period.  We are holding our philanthropy back, because we are asking for unrestricted rather than restricted. (Penelope Burk)

4.  Get Rid of the Words.

Put your whole message in the first 150 words. The rest of your copy just backs it up.  (Tom Ahern)

5.  Get Rid of “Unmet Needs,” “Programs,” “Services.”

Write like you are an outsider to your organization. Get rid of the boring, obtuse jargon. Jargon is a flame retardant! (Tom Ahern)

6.  Make Your Case Like a Series of Ads.

Add photos while you get rid of words. Create your case or your fundraising materials with the fewest words and the best photos. (Tom Ahern)

7.  Hire More Fundraisers.

Saying, “We can’t hire any more staff.” is stupid. Each additional fundraising staffer upticks gross fundraising revenue. Period. (Penelope Burk)

8.  Give Your Fundraising Staff Raises.

Money is the #1 reason fundraising staff leaves. Investing in retention of staff will make you money. Retention boosts profit.

Extend young staff from 18 months to 30 months saves you money. (Burk)

9. Get Rid of the Raise Money Now Mindset.

31% of fundraisers who are planning to leave their jobs will leave because of  an unrealistic “old school” culture of fundraising: ie, “you HAVE to bring in the $ NOW.”

How much more money could you raise if you took a long term, strategic approach? (Burk)

10. You Must Give Your Staff Management Training.

Success in business is 95% in the management of other people. But we cut staff training first whenever there is a shortfall. Training is essential. There’s not enough management training in nonprofits.(Burk)

11. Get Rid of Lousy Board Members Now.

Allowing a lousy, nonperforming board member to serve out their term is, two words: “Chicken S***”  (Simone Joyaux)

12. Be Blatant.

Try this: “With your help, all these amazing things happened. And without your help, they won’t.”  You‘re selling the impact of the donor’s gift. (Tom Ahern)

13. Stop Talking About The Money You Need.

You choose:

A case is about the opportunity you‘re putting in front of the donor.


A case is about your organization‘s need for cash. (Ahern)

14. Become a Shrink.

When dealing with volunteers, you are a psychologist not a fundraiser!  (Laura Fredricks)

15. Don’t Believe Your Prospect, When. . .

If he says, “I’m just a plain ole country boy,” it really means he is a wealthy prospect! (Eli Jordfald)

16. Close Down Some Programs.

Leaders will close or giveaway a program or activity that is no longer profitable and has little impact.

So were these ideas provocative? Would they challenge your status quo?

Remember fundraising is changing. Donors are changing.

Doing what you’ve always done the same old way will get you yesterday’s results.

Go for it! Change is good.

Use this article to rattle some cages!

And please forward it to a friend – and I’d really appreciate your comments.

  • Ken Turpen

    There’s a reason I’m following Gail on facebook and Twillter, plus I’m subscribed to her e-newsletter . . . Always good sound advice and great suggestions on moving forward. Thanks Gail!

  • Gail:

    Almost every Friday, our Board chair (and capital campaign chair) is used to seeing a Gail Perry forward with the words, “I love this woman!” in his in-box. Though I didn’t get to conference this year, I was there last, sitting up front and being injected with your unbridled enthusiasm. Thank you. Your tips are awesome!

    Maria Lorensen

  • There is always one or two nuggets of wisdom in every Friday message that really hits home. Thanks, Gail. You are a constant source of inspiration.

  • This helps me feel like I was there – thanks Gayle!

    I love number thirteen – it’s really not about the money (it’s about the mission).

  • Each of these could be advice well taken for your average teacher. Then it occurs to me that each of us is, in fact, a teacher advocating for one non-profit or another. No one has brought me an apple lately, but the gratification is the same.

  • Maria and Karen, thanks so very much for your nice responses. Hope your enthusiasm is high and you are raising lots of money for your wonderful causes!

  • Kirsten, you’re right. We need to stop talking about money and talk about our opportunity!

  • Excellent! What a way to end the week and give focus to the next one!

  • Sandy Fortier

    I am pushing for #16 right now and am not afraid of it, but some of the staff and board members sure are. I am trying to add some questions to the mix to get them thinking about our programs, like “If donors and volunteers knew your costs and net, would they be happy or disappointed?”

  • Mary Cahalane

    I guess it’s a good sign that I don’t find those all that provocative. I DO, however, find them excellent!

    One question, though, on unrestricted/restricted. I’ve seen claims that offering restricted opportunities helps, and also that it does not, and only confuses the donor. Did you get anything quantitative on that subject?

    TIA and thanks for this!

  • Hi Mary, Penelope Burk is the most exacting researcher in our business. So when she says it’s true, I tend to believe her. She didn’t cite the exact statistics, but if you search her blog and her reports, I bet you’ll find the original data.

  • Sandy, it’s not unusual for board members and some staff to be afraid of this. But WHY would you keep a program that is not successful? Politics? Status quo? Give me a better reason than that! : )

  • Rocky Leflore

    Great advice!

  • Like Mary, I didn’t find these all that new or provocative – I’ve been espousing the same advice to my readers for the past two years. Sustainable fundraising comes when we focus on the long-term and think in terms of “lifetime value” of the donor (see http://sofii-foundation.blogspot.com/2010/11/beat-statistics-by-falling-in-love-with.html). And monthly giving? From what I recall it constitutes about 80% of all individual giving in the UK – but we’re like dinosaurs here. Check out this transcript of a call I did with Harvey McKinnon on monthly giving in the small shop: http://www.pamelasgrantwritingblog.com/1369/monthly-giving-for-the-small-shop-interview-with-harvey-mckinnon/

  • Thanks Pamela! Agreed that lots of these ideas are pretty standard for high performing nonprofits! Here’s a question, how do we get US nonprofits to aggressively move to monthly giving? Harvey McKinnon was absolutely brilliant talking about monthly giving at the AFP Conference. I’m a convert!

  • Thanks Gail!

    Well it’s interesting. I was not aware until recently that a large percentage of monthly donors in the UK were signed up via “face to face” or “street” fundraising (here’s a blog post http://www.pamelasgrantwritingblog.com/1322/street-fundraising-could-it-work-for-your-organization/)

    I think that the key to successful monthly giving, like all fundraising, lies in developing systems to ensure the constancy and consistency of the program. You’re not going to introduce it just once to raging success. It needs to be nurtured. And I like to introduce it first to those donors who have already proven to be loyal donors (altho a client, a small nonprofit, launched their email monthly giving appeal to a fairly dead list and it’s resulted in 30 new monthly donors so far). I also think that it shouldn’t necessarily be an add-on after a string of other gift options but rather the focus of one single appeal.

  • As always, great stuff Gail! I think that sometimes, we get so busy with our day-to-day work that we forget these simple, yet powerful, ideas. Thanks for reminding us all!

    Sandy Rees

  • Hi Gail,

    I haven’t been to an AFP conference so thanks for this feedback. Some great insight and ideas.


  • Info

    Wow! Some great information!
    Thanks!!! Bunnie Riedel

  • I went back into my active proposal templates today and “tweeted” the first line of each one– the entire proposal summed up in 140 characters. What a great exercise. Every proposal feels stronger, more engaging, and more fun, and I know in 5 seconds what this proposal is for.

  • Anonymous

    Terrific! I think your donors will like it too!



    Gail Perry MBA CFRE Fired Up Fundraising gailperry.com

    Author, speaker, consultant to nonprofit leaders and boards
    For tips on firing up your fundraising and your board, subscribe to my weekly newsletter

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  • Tammy

    Gail, Thanks for sharing important insights from AFP’s recent conference. We’re struggling with #10 right now, so hearing about it is great. Two questions: How does provocative idea #3 affect an annual fund campaign? How is this messaged?

  • Anonymous

    Hi tammy – Re idea #3: encourage restricted giving: I’d offer donors a menu of options that you select yourself. Give them three or four options – one of which is unrestricted. Report back to them based on the area that they gave to.

    Regarding management and staff training, I’ll just repeat Penelope Burk: it’s an absolute must!

  • Fabulous list, Gail. I appreciate your cheering, “Go for it! Change is good.” One of the most challenging issues I counsel on is changing a fundraising event. The cliché is true, people are afraid of change. When I have worked with a brave gala chair, she’s been a hero in the end because the change has meant big rewards, i.e. more $ for her favorite charity. Thanks for giving the enthusiastic support to making change.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Sherry! I agree! It’s so important to change events around – they get stale easily in people’s eyes. And that’s the kiss of death!
    PS I love your event tips and tweet them often!

  • AccountantsEdinburgh

    Wow, what a fabulous list!  You’ve really opened my eyes to some great posibilities.  Thank you for posting this list.

  • Anonymous

    Glad you liked! Always good to be provocative!