7 Provocative Ideas Guaranteed to Shake Up Your Fundraising Results

I’m just back from three incredible days at the AFP International Conference in Vancouver.

The AFP International Conference was a real high!

And my mind is still blown from the provocative ideas that flew about in the workshops, big sessions and stimulating conversations with my peers.

Just like I did last year, I’m sharing my favorite BIG ideas from the AFP International Conference.

Last year, The Agitator blog totally trashed my list from last year. (ouch!).

But being the thick-skinned seasoned pro that I am (yeah, right), here I go again with yet another list.

Here are my top, favorite BIG PROVOCATIVE IDEAS from the conference.

I hope they will shake up everything you do: from your approach to your donors, your fundraising strategies, your board, your accounting metrics, your message.

You might say that some of these ideas are old news. BUT the presenters just nailed the issue in a new, provocative way.

    1.  “Think really, really big and then execute.”

Scott Harrision from charity: water has a wildly innovative approach. Charity: water doesn’t really use a traditional nonprofit model.

charity: water has a very simple message.

Charity: water has a clear simple story, very clear metrics and goals, an untraditional approach, brilliant marketing, angel investors and lotsa hutspa.

I love his quote: “If you are exited enough about your project and you write enough emails, you can fund your project.”

When he was starting out, he asked EVERYBODY he knew to help reach the goal.

He thought big, and even bigger!

Take away:  You are not thinking big enough.  Be bold.

2.  “Your stories should touch your donors’ souls.”

Fraser Green of GoodWorks brought us to tears over and over in his presentation. His stories broke our hearts. (can you break hearts with your stories?)

He wears his heart on his sleeve. (do you?)

He reminded us to use emotional power with our donors.  Emotion can bring out the best in people.

Fraser Green of Good Works believes in powerful emotional stories.

And the best way to connect with donor’s EMOTIONS is telling stories.

Fraser says, “We are wired for stories.”

His research shows that 78% donors say their gifts are an extension of their spiritual beliefs.

Stories evoke that.

Take away: Find stories that have drama and raw emotion. Then learn how to tell them well.

3.  “We didn’t ask for money, we asked for action!”

This came across on the twitter stream of the conference. I’m not sure who said it but I sure loved the quote!

Ask your donor to take action; give her something to DO!

What would your fundraising look like if you weren’t asking for money all the time?

The best appeals ask for action first, and then money.

What can you ask your donors to DO?

You know the fundraising motto:

Involvement breeds investment.

Take away: stop asking for money all the time.  Give your donors something to DO.

4.  “We either meet or we work.”

Oh gawd, wish I had a dollar for every minute I’ve wasted in meetings. Or even a penny!

If you are an action-oriented person, you probably hate meetings like I do.

The great management guru Peter Drucker said, “meetings are where you hide from making a decision.”

The meeting from hell!

The work happens somewhere else.

It’s your choice.

Why do we meet? I’m not sure!

Take away:  PLEASE dump some internal meetings. And raise some money instead.

5. “Each donor prospect is their own mini-campaign.”

Laura Fredricks has a new book out on Asking, and she’s the guru.

She reminded us that major gift prospects all need a totally custom, individualized strategy.

It really helps to think in terms of each person having their own mini-campaign.

Laura Fredricks' The Ask is the definitive guide to asking.

Step by step, by step, you develop their interest and ready them for an ask.

Take away: Create a full-scale campaign plan for each major prospect.

6. “Be willing to collaborate with businesses to get your work done.”

Companies are looking for nonprofits to partner with.

They know that 85% of Americans say they have a more positive opinion of a company when it supports a cause.

I’m seeing more and more innovative for-profit business models popping up.

There are legitimate business ventures out there looking for nonprofit partners who will share in the profits.

This is a totally out of the box approach to fundraising. I used to debunk all this stuff. But I’m coming around!

Take away:  Be open to for-profit business collaborations!

7.  “Ask not what your donor can do for you, ask what you can do for your donor.”

I picked up this quote from @philanthrolab’s excellent twitter stream.

Brittany Janis (@philanthrolab) had great tweets at AFPmeet.

Here’s a great insight that redefines “donor-centered.”

Fraser Green and his daughter Rory, who presented with him, said:

68% of donors say we suck at showing results of giving.

What great donor/customer service can you provide to your donors?

Take away: See if you can offer your donors killer “customer service.”

Bottom Line:

There’s a revolution going on in fundraising. It’s NOT the new vs the old. It’s a dramatically new way of thinking and approaching the entire issue of marketing to our donors, communicating with them and asking them for help.

Too many nonprofits are still stuck in the 1980’s, with dated language and boring asks.

Don’t let it happen to you.

  • Matt Harvey

    Thank you, Gail! We are really working to grow through partnerships with businesses and corporations. Can you please tell me where this statistic from came from in Idea 6?
    “They know that 85% of Americans say they have a more positive opinion of a company when it supports a cause.”
    Thanks …

  • Robin Cabral

    Not sure that I agree that these are “out of the box” as they have all been said in one shape or form or another!  I do think the basic take away of innovation, collaboration, engagement, and donor love are critical and good that you remind us of that!  

  • Anonymous

    Hi Robin!  Yup, we have probably heard these all. But so many of the nonprofits I know give lip service to these strategies.  I keep hitting them hard, trying to really land these concepts! 

  • Anonymous

    Hi Matt! oh boy, the speaker who noted this stat just rolled it right out like we all should know it. It was one of the presenters on cause marketing. I’ll see if I can dig it out!

  • Glad you enjoyed our presentation Gail!

  • Jo

    Hi Gail…loved this post! You said “I’m seeing more and more innovative for-profit business models popping up.” Could you elaborate on these…it’s a perfect application for our charity.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jo! Gosh, I couldn’t begin to outline the reputable for-profit businesses who are seeking nonprofit partners to share profits with. Look at the H-Card for example. Maybe I should start writing about companies who I think fit those criteria? What do YOU think? 

  • Maria Lorraine

    Thank you for your information.  All of what you shared sounds great.  How do you use all of these tips when we are a low income community and we have very few businesses.  Most of the businesses in our community rely on tourism which has declined tremendously.  At this time, our club is in serious shape.  We will not even be opening in the summer.  Do you have any tips that may help us out?