Don’t Be a Fundraising Dinosaur: 5 Big Ideas to Adopt Right Now

Here are more provocative nuggets from the recent AFP International Conference in Vancouver.

I just couldn’t resist sharing these “status-quo” challenges!

MLK never said, "I have an organization!"

Here’s my challenge: Take this list to your next board meeting.

Ask your board members: “What are your impressions of these ideas?”

Big Idea #1.  Stop talking about yourself.

I’m hearing this over and over.  And I bet you are too.

But are you really, really following this new rule of fundraising?

Guess what:

It’s not about YOU or your organization.  It’s about the cause!

MLK never said “I have an organization.”

He said, of course, “I have a dream!”

AFP speaker Fraser Green said that MLK never once, in all his speeches, ever talked about his organization!

Maybe you just better lessen the emphasis on your fine, wonderful organization.

And, hold on –  people are not particularly interested in what you DO either:

A favorite tweet from the #afpmeet:

“Nobody is interested in what you do, but you. Everybody is interested in what you achieve when you do it.” –Simon Pidgeon #Afpmeet (@RoryJMGreen) April 3, 2012


Nobody cares when your organization was founded. Nobody.

It’s all about the CAUSE.

The dream. Your organization’s dream of a new and improved world.

THAT’s the conversation you need to be having!

Big Idea #2.  Donor retention is more important than cash totals.

Whoa, what was that?

Did I hear right?

Peter Drury  wowed us all with his presentation on “Beyond Cash Fundraising Metrics.

“If you focus exclusively on the cash you receive this year – then you are exposing your organization to great risk.”

You and I know that this is really a sustainability issue.

How are we setting ourselves up (not not) for future success?

Donor retention is on a serious downward trend. What are you going to do about it?

How are today’s decisions (or not) going to impact next year’s fundraising?

If you can only measure one thing in your fundraising program, then measure donor retention.

You need to go all out to keep the donors you have – above all.

Because we know that donors are abandoning nonprofits by the thousands.

If you cut back your donor communications, then you’ll probably see donor retention drop off the cliff.

What happens in the future when today’s best donors are no longer with you?

Big Idea #3.  Either YOU do the metrics or the metrics get done to you.

It’s time to take charge of how your bosses measures your fundraising performance.

Peter Drury said, “Either YOU do the accounting, or accounting gets done to you.”

Don’t sit back and let your board (and CEO) define fundraising success:

“If you give smart people inconsistent information that they don’t understand, then you’ll receive inconsistent decisions that YOU don’t understand.”

Work with your board and CEO to decide in advance:

  • Why we count
  • What we count
  • How we count

Can you create a dashboard to track fundraising metrics?

Create a dashboard: a consistent set of indicators tracking what’s really important.

You’ve GOT to check out this amazing tool:

Peter Drury’s Beyond Cash Fundraising Management Dashboard shows you how to set up several different measures of fundraising results.

So help your board know how to measure fundraising success.

Give them what they need to make good decisions.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear your board members say: “What are we going to do about retention!”

Big Idea #4.  Put your donors on camera.

Let’s face it. It’s time to start using video in our communications.

Why not try filming your donors? Ask them why they care!

And what a wonderful idea: start filming your donors on WHY they care.

You’ll be AMAZED at their powerful testimonials!

They will NAIL your case for support in a way you could never do.

They will talk about the WHY – Why your cause is so important, why it’s so urgent.

Let your DONORS be your best advocates!

Of course, putting your donors on camera does something else too: it cultivates them deeply.

  • You are paying attention to your donors.
  • You are asking them to get in touch with their personal passion for the cause.
  • You are touching their heart.
  • AND you are pulling out a powerful marketing message that can give your fundraising program a real boost.

95% of donors say it feels good to give. Let them talk about it on camera.

Big Idea #5. Stop asking for money. Start asking for action.

This is where the political fundraisers have it over the nonprofits.

The Sierra Club asks for ACTION in addition to giving.

Take a look at all the political fundraising out there today.

It seems that all PACS and other political causes are asking you to TAKE ACTION in addition to giving money.

I believe in giving donors something TO DO.

It makes them happier. It involves them in the cause. It fans the flames of their passion.

It makes their gift of time and money more meaningful to them.

AND it sets them up for larger, sustained giving.

What can you ask your donors to DO?


Fundraising is changing. It’s getting LOTS more sophisticated.

Don’t be a dinosaur.

Throw out the status quo. Try new strategies and Big Ideas.

You’ll raise LOTS more money if you do!

Which is YOUR favorite new BIG IDEA?  Leave a comment and let me know!

  • WOW – thank you, I so appreciate the review from the AFP that I was unable to attend. I feel revived to get back to analytics, creating short videos for the ipads our field reps are using – but ask THEM to get the footage from their passionate donors, and giving our donors an action to do in addition to donating! 🙂 I’ve printed this and posted it in my office.

  • Anonymous

    hi Deb!  Glad this was helpful! I’d LOVE to see some footage of your donors talking about WHY they give. I wanted to post that on my site but couldn’t find.  Send and I’ll post! 

  • Great summary Gail. Simon Pidgeon was absolutely amazing.

  • Revjimtaylor

    Gail: Just received this Enewsletter and loved the content.  This was probably the best one so far this year.  Plenty of great ideas that can be applied to many organizations. Going to the AFP conference really allowed for plenty of wonderful applications.  I am a minister and Chairperson for Stewardship in my diocese.  I often transfer nonprofit ideas for fundraising to church stewardship ideas.  Keep doing a great job and thanks for sharing!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Rory, YOU and your dad were absolutely amazing. : )

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jim, so glad this helped. Interesting to apply these ideas to church stewardship.  Could really shake up some of the traditional approaches to church fundraising!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Gail, fantastic post and summary of some of the conference sessions.  Although I agree with #5, Stop asking for money and ask for actions, I’m afraid that many organizations don’t ask for either. I would say most organizations actually aren’t asking enough for donations, so ask, ask, and ask some more (and you will raise more money)!

  •  Thank you! It means a great deal coming from someone I have so much respect for.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Amy – you are THE Asking expert – and you are probably totally correct. How do we get people to be willing to ask: that is the question, isn’t it!

    I love your 50 Asks in 50 Weeks book, which I highly recommend to all my readers!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Gail!

  • “#5. Stop asking for money. Start asking for action.” –  I can’t agree more Gail. If it is your passion you really don’t need to ask money. People will become aware of you and your plan and will pitch in with your ideas. Thanks for the awesome post!