Clear the “Pathway to Giving”

Clear the PathBy Brendan Kinney, Moderator of #fundchat

Smart nonprofit organizations create as many pathways to giving as possible: mail and phone are obvious, but then there are gifts via the web, mobile, and social networks. And the method of giving that your donors use is just as important as the platform they use to make their gift. Donors should be able to give by cash and check of course, but then there are credit cards, EFT, and PayPal and more.

As you add pathways for donors to support your cause, stick a Post-It note to your forehead with the following letters: “K.I.S.S.” Repeat after me: Keep It Simple Stupid. The worst thing we can do is make gift giving difficult. In our quest to provide as many ways to give as possible, we overlook the donor who just wants to make a gift.

If you are expanding your pathways to giving or simply performing an audit of the monster you created, consider the following:

Customer Service is Key

A great way to surprise your supporters and donors is to take their phone call. When a donor is having difficulty making a gift to your organization, you hope they will pick up the phone or compose an email message. You should be listening! What better time to help a donor than when they are in the moment, trying to make a gift to your organization, but have a question or are having trouble with your website.

Make sure that someone on your staff is responsible for answering these questions by phone, email…and yes, on social networking sites. There is no more basic service that you can provide than to be available for your supporters and donors and to do everything you can to help them make a gift to your organization.

Align Path with Preference

Do you throw the kitchen sink in with your appeals? You know what I mean: you’re adding that crucial “P.S.” to finish up your winter appeal and you feel you just have to list the website, include the phone number, remind them of the courtesy reply envelope, and plug your monthly giving program. Wrong. Instead of making things easier, you’ve created a speed bump in your pathway to giving. Your donor is now faced with a decision, not how much to give to your organization, but how.

Show some respect to your donors by encouraging them to give the same way they did last time. Chances are, you have this information in your database already (and if you don’t…tsk! tsk!). When you send a letter to John and Jane Smith, you know they gave by phone last time, so their letter can be personalized to include this giving path and this giving path only. You can also take a closer look at your database and see who typically gives in response to, say, your spring phonathon. Those folks ought to be the first to get a call come April.

Obviously, you want to give your donors as many chances to support your organization as possible, but go farther by clearing the clutter on their pathway to giving.

Match Giving Path to Method

When you’re preparing an appeal, think carefully about matching the giving method to the pathway to giving. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to send someone an e-blast solicitation and then ask them to call a phone number. Don’t send a direct mail letter and neglect to include a courtesy reply envelope/postcard. And for goodness’ sake, don’t call someone who has asked not to be solicited in that fashion before.

If you send an e-blast, the “Make Your Gift Now” link should take them right to your giving form on your website. Do not, under any circumstances, link them to a special landing page, a flowery page listing all of the great reasons to support your cause, or some fancy video you’ve put together. They are ready to make a gift, otherwise they wouldn’t have followed the link! (The other cardinal sin is to make your online giving process unnecessarily long, but that’s another blog post altogether.)

When a donor or potential donor receives your appeal, your goal is to provide so much grease that their gift giving is effortless.

Connect the Dots for Donors

Our donors are often generous with the wallets. What they are more protective of is their time. So when you are reaching out to donors about methods or paths of giving that take some explanation, realize that it will take more than one letter, email or phone call; it may, in fact, take many conversations.

Whether it’s the complexities of a charitable gift annuity, gift of stock, or your monthly giving program, you job is to connect the dots for donors. That means demonstrating the impact of not only their gift, but their method of giving.

For example, you may want to increase the number of donors who use your monthly giving program by EFT (electronic funds transfer from a checking or savings account). A donor may ask, “Why can’t I just send my check like I do every year?” Take the time to connect the dots. Explain how their using EFT as their method of giving not only saves them time (no writing checks) and is convenient (no need to remember when to send their gift) but it also helps the organization save money (you don’t send a renewal by mail) and helps those that you serve (less time asking for support and more time providing services).

So, take a strategic approach to connecting the dots for those methods or pathways that require a little extra effort. Write an article for your newsletter, include an insert in all acknowledgements about stock gifts, planned giving, etc., and rotate those messages every month or quarter; send a direct mail piece to existing donors (they don’t need to be sold on supporting you) that describes the path in clear and concise language. The possibilities are endless, but the point is to invest your time in connecting the dots.

The Big Picture

The hard part is over; you’ve provided your donors with as many ways to support you as might be convenient for them. Now, don’t blow it by confusing your donors about which option to choose. Remember those donors who just want to make a gift.

They’ll thank you for it.

Brendan Kinney

Brendan Kinney is a fundraising and marketing professional. He has worked in higher education and public media and is the moderator of #fundchat. You can follow him on Twitter at @brendankinney.


Optimizing Your Nonprofit Website

Take a monkeywrench to your website.(Updated 11/15/11, 10:30 p.m.)

Join the #fundchat community on Wednesday, November 16 from 12 pm – 1 pm EDT for a conversation about “Optimizing Your Nonprofit Website.”

With so much focus on social media, a regular website seems kind of “old school.” But many nonprofits still struggle with having an effective website. Other nonprofits have a solid website, but have taken their eye off the ball to focus on their mission or other communication platforms like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+.

This week’s #fundchat will focus on “WWW,” the three W’s of What, When, and Why and how to apply these questions to your web presence. Here’s your to do list in preparation for this week’s #fundchat:

  • What are your questions? Participants offer most of the questions that are considered during #fundchat, so submit yours now in the comment section below!
  • Spread the word. Let your colleagues and friends on Facebook and Twitter know about #fundchat. Invite them to peer over your shoulder and see what it’s all about. Last week we had nearly 50 people participate in #fundchat.
  • Help with homework prep. Share links and resources about smart nonprofit web design and strategy using the #fundchat hashtag.

Here’s the line-up of questions for the convo:

  • Q1: What role does your org website play in “making your case” and your overall strategy to reach donors?
  • Q2: What aspect of your website makes you wince and why? (C’mon, we’re among friends!)
  • Q3: Have printed or other forms of communications with your constituents and donors been supplanted by your website? Good or bad?
  • Q4: What is your strategy for integrating calls to action on your website?
  • Q5: What advice do you have for dealing with “the dreaded online giving form?”
  • Q6: If your org has a commercial aspect, how do you balance between your philanthropic mission & commercial needs? (i.e. museums, etc.)

If you are new to Twitter chats, it’s easy. You can follow the #fundchat hashtag at the appointed time using your favorite Twitter client. You can also use the #fundchat page on Twebevent, which provides a web-based interface and consolidates the conversation in one view (it also automatically includes the hashtag at the end of your posts). Check out the #fundchat guidelines page fore more tips.

Planned Giving: Moving Beyond the Basics

Planned GivingUpdated (11/10/11, 7:06 a.m.)

Chat stats and transcript now available here.

For many nonprofits, planned giving is a check box on a return envelope, a “legacy” society, and if you are lucky, a regular printed newsletter. For many more organizations, having a planned giving program is an idea that is just too complicated to even consider.

If you’re looking to take the next step with your planned giving program, get one off the ground, or share your expertise with others, join the #fundchat community on Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. EDT for “Planned Giving: Moving Beyond the Basics.”

On average, about 50 people participate in #fundchat each week. It’s community participation that leads to a successful chat. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Spread the word: tell your friends and colleagues about #fundchat. Share a link to the blog on your social networks. Ask a friend to sit with you over lunch during #fundchat so they can see what it’s all about.
  2. Suggest a question (or two): #fundchat is moderated by @brendankinney and he could really use your help dreaming up good questions for the chat. The moderator offers up questions every 10 minutes or so during #fundchat. Great questions lead to a great conversation. Dull questions, well…you get the idea. Please suggest a question or idea in the comments section of the blog.

If you have never participated in a #fundchat before, it’s easy. Check out our handy guidelines. Most participants like to use the web-based Twebevent.

Here are the questions for today’s chat:

  1. How did you start your PG program and if you had to do it again, what would you do differently?
  2. Who took a leadership role in championing PG in your organization?
  3. If you’re the only fundraiser, how do you manage PG with so many things on your plate?
  4. How do you identify PG prospects?
  5. How do you track PG intentions?
  6. Do you ever use Planned Giving to inspire current giving?

We had so many suggestions for questions, we created a Planned Giving survey. Take it now –

Many thanks to @FundraiserBeth, @mcahalane, @lpdiversa for providing the inspiration for this week’s #fundchat!

Weathering the Storm: How Nonprofits Can Navigate the Recession

Read the Transcript! (Posted 10/27/11)

Is there a double dip ahead?This week’s #fundchat topic is “Weathering the Storm: How Nonprofits Can Navigate the Recession.” Join the #fundchat community on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 12 p.m. EDT (that’s high noon for you folks on the East coast!) for a conversation that will be of interest to you no matter what your role in your organization.

Most nonprofits survive on a shoestring budget and all are cost-per-dollar-raised conscious, looking to spend their donor’s money wisely. Call it a recession, a downturn, a dip or a trough, the economic environment is putting even greater pressure on organizations like ours.

What would you like to know from other nonprofit professionals about how their organization has navigated the economy? What tips could you offer your colleagues? Please offer your ideas for questions for this week’s #fundchat in the comments section below. Here are a few that we might consider for this week’s #fundchat:

  1. How has the recession affected your bottom line or the services you are able to deliver?
  2. What creative lengths has your organization gone to to stretch budget dollars even farther?
  3. Has your organization had to layoff staff? How were these decisions handled?
  4. Has your nonprofit found a way to use the economic climate in your case for support?
  5. If support has diminished in one area, has your organization found other areas of revenue to help offset the loss on the other side?
  6. As you looked to trim budgets, what expenses were the first to go?

Please help spread the word by introducing your colleagues and networks to #fundchat. If you are new to tweetchats, it’s easy. At the appointed time, you follow the hashtag (#fundchat) in your favorite Twitter client and participate in the conversation by adding the hashtag at the end of your tweets. You can also use services like Tweetchat or Twebevent to make participation easy. Check out the #fundchat Twebevent here. Before you begin, you might want to look at our “#fundchat 101” post to familiarize yourself with the format and overall guidelines.

10/5 #fundchat: Professional Development for Fundraisers: How to Elevate Your Game

Tweetups make informal networking happen.Everywhere you look these days there are a ton of professional development opportunities for fundraisers and other colleagues engaged in nonprofit work. There are the formal, like conferences, webinars, and workshops. There are the informal, like tweetups, tweet chats (like #fundchat!) and social networking sites that have a bent toward careers and networking. Technology has lowered the cost of entry for quality professional development opportunities and technology has enabled new ways in which you can connect with others in your industry.

What are the best professional development opportunities? Who goes? And how much? Are all important questions when it comes to raising your game.

Join the #fundchat community this Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 12 p.m. EDT to discuss this week’s topic: “Professional Development for Fundraisers: How to Elevate Your Game.”

If you plan on joining the conversation, here’s what you can do:

  1. Spread the word! Tweet, Facebook, Google+ (is that a verb yet?) and just plain ‘ol email your friends and colleagues about the chat.
  2. Save the date! Some folks are still getting used to our new time. It’s high noon people! (That is, if you live in the Eastern United States…)
  3. Share your questions. What thoughts or ideas do you have about professional development? What questions should we consider during the conversation on Wednesday? Share them in the comments section of this post.
  4. Bone up on the guidelines. Joining a Twitter chat is painless. We do have a few helpful tips.
  5. Bookmark it. Many participants use Tweetchat or Twebevent to participate in the conversation. You can also just follow the #fundchat hashtag in your favorite Twitter client.

Thanks so much for your interest and thanks in advance for being a part of this week’s conversation!

9/14 #fundchat Summary: Ethics in Fundraising (including transcript)

ThLet's Get Ready to Rumbleanks to all for a great edition of #fundchat last night. Thanks to @hashtracking for providing a report of the festivities. Here’s a recap:

  • Participants: 67
  • Tweets: 507
  • Impressions: 731,000
  • Reach: 102,000

Our goal was to double participation this week. While that didn’t happen, we see an increase in each of the stats this week, so thank you! I know some of our regular, core #fundchat crew had conflicts last night and you were with us in spirit.

Speaking of spirit, there was quite a heated debate on whether fundraisers should receive commissions. Actually, @fundraisinisfun is to blame since he suggested the question! It turns out we could have had a chat on that one issue (and we plan to in the near future). Read the transcript for the full details.

Finally, you should cast your vote on whether #fundchat should move to a new time. I’ve received a few pleas since we began that an earlier time would work for more people. What do you think? Please vote now.

Thanks for a great #fundchat experience this week!

– Brendan (@brendankinney), Your Humble #fundchat Moderator

9/14 #fundhat: “Shades of Gray: Ethics in Fundraising”

Got ethics graphic

Update, 9/14, 4 p.m.

Here are tonight’s questions:

  1. Does your organization embrace the Donor Bill of Rights (or similar)? How do you underscore its importance with your fundraisers?
  2. What checks are in place at your organization to ensure ethical decision-making in fundraising?
  3. Are ethics discussed regularly within your team, senior management, board, with donors?
  4. If your organization has a Gift Acceptance Committee, who sits on it and how often does it meet?
  5. “What’s the big deal if I take a personal gift from a donor? Isn’t it rude, and harmful to the relationship, to say ‘no’?”
  6. Why shouldn’t fundraisers work on commission?
  7. What does your team do to share and learn from potentially ethical issues?
  8. When confronted with an ethical dilemma in fundraising, what is your decision-making process and who is at the table? Is this guided by a formal policy or an informal practice?


As fundraisers, we know that our ethical standards are always under the microscope. And for good reason: our constituents are looking to us to conduct ourselves in a way that lives up to the lofty missions of our organizations. We encounter situations when the right decision is not clear and we have to wrestle with doing what’s right for the organization and for the donor.

This week on #fundchat, we’ll be discussing the topic of ethics in fundraising. You can join the #fundchat community on Wednesday, September 14 at 9 pm EDT. You can participate by following the #fundchat hashtag or many folks like to use our Twebevent page. If you are new to #fundchat, check out our tips and guidelines post.

I need your help to get ready for this week’s chat and to meet a BHAG (Big Hairy  Audacious Goal) that I set last week. Here’s the scoop:

Spread the Word
Last week we had just over 40 participants in #fundchat. The goal this week is to double it. Why? Because fundraisers fixate on numbers, that’s why! To increase the impact of #fundchat, we have to increase the numbers in our community. So your goal this week is to personally invite friends and colleagues (and in some cases, sign them up for Twitter). Re-tweet about this week’s topic, introduce #fundchat to other related hashtags, and encourage folks to follow @fundchat. Doubling participation in one week is indeed audacious, but that’s we #fundchatters roll. Oh, and “lurking” doesn’t count toward our goal…it’s time for wall flowers to join the dance!

Formulate Questions
The quality of #fundchat is determined by the caliber of the questions week-in, and week-out. So many #fundchatters offer up great questions that add up to an hour of incredibly valuable conversation, ideas, tips and advice. Take a minute to share your ideas for questions in the comments section below. We typically address 5-10 questions during a normal #fundchat…maybe one of them will be yours!

Be Awesome
The only thing left to do is show up and be your regular awesome self. The reason that #fundchat has been such a success is because of our amazing participants. If you haven’t yet tuned in for #fundchat, you don’t know what you are missing. It’s a great opportunity to connect with a group of tech savvy nonprofit professionals. Let’s expand the circle this week by doing what we do so well, share your experience, knowledge and wisdom with others who are working in their little corner of the world to make it a better place.

– Your Humble Moderator, Brendan (@brendankinney)

Here are some good articles you can preview for this week’s #fundchat about ethics: