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.


10/19 #fundchat: “Getting Ready to Ask for a Big Gift”

Getting Ready to Ask for a Big GiftREAD the transcript (Now available!)

Last month, Tony Martignetti of #nonprofitradio fame, was featured on The Chronicle of Philanthropy website. His podcast, “Getting Ready to Ask for a Big Gift,” raised important issues and insights into this critical topic:

“For any nonprofit, success means preparing volunteers, board members, and fund raisers alike to ask for big gifts. How much should solicitors talk, and when should they listen? What steps can an organization do to prepare the prospect beforehand?”

Join the #fundchat community on Wednesday, October 19 at 12 p.m. EDT for a lively conversation on the topic of preparing for the big ask. If you are a #fundchat newbie, no worries…we’ve got you covered right here.

What can you do to help?

  1. Share your ideas for questions for this #fundchat topic by sharing them in the comments section below.
  2. Take a listen to Tony Martignetti’s podcast that inspired this edition of #fundchat!
  3. Spread the word about the 10/19 #fundchat by sharing on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook.
  4. RSVP for this event via the #fundchat Facebook page.

You can keep the conversation rolling between #fundchat sessions by connecting with tweeps on the #fundchat Facebook page!

Brendan Kinney, moderator of #fundchat 

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:

8/31 #fundchat: Worst Practices in Fundraising & Development

Let's Make Better MistakesUpdated:

Read the transcript and check out the stats from a very enlightening #fundchat! Thanks to @hashtracking for providing real-time access, stats and details.

Here are tonight’s questions:

  1. Let’s have the list! What are the worst practices that you have seen in fundraising?
  2. How do these worst practices get started and why do they persist?
  3. Can we identify underlying misconceptions about our profession that lead to these “worst” practices?
  4. Do some “worst” practices work for certain types of NPO’s and are therefore acceptable?
  5. What can we do as fundraising professionals to thwart these worst practices?

Forget the best! What are the worst practices in development?

So often in nonprofit fundraising circles, we focus on the best. What are the best practices? What are the best subject lines in an email campaign? What’s the best timing of renewal letters? What’s the best approach to steward donors?

As fundraisers, that’s just how we roll.

Well, this week, we get to focus on the worst instead. Think of all of the things that drive you nuts…the list of pet peeves is long, no? At 9 pm on Wednesday, August 31, the #fundchat crew will gather to share each others’ pain. What are the topics or angles you’d like to tackle? Share them below in the comments section so we can prep for this week’s chat.

New to #fundchat? Review our tips and guidelines for participating.

Participate in the chat using Twebevent –

Thanks to Hashtracking, we will have real-time stats and a transcript!

8/24 #fundchat: “To CFRE, or not to CFRE, that is the Question”

Getting certifiedMany professional fundraisers seek out CFRE certification as a way to increase their credibility, knowledge and their marketability in the nonprofit world. Learn more about CFRE International here.

Are you contemplating CFRE certification? Or have you already received certification? We want to hear from both of you during this week’s #fundchat.

But first, we need your ideas for questions. What are your questions about the process and the value of certification? If you are already certified, what questions do you wish you had asked before taking the plunge? What about continuing education and professional development in general?

Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. Then “tune-in” for the #fundchat Twitter chat on Wednesday, August 24 at 9 pm EST. The members of the #fundchat community will respond to your questions and share their thoughts on the topic.

You are invited to join the conversation too! To learn more about how to participate in #fundchat, take a few minutes to learn the ropes and review our guidelines. Use your favorite Twitter client to follow the #fundchat hashtag, or use Twebevent.

8/17 #fundchat: Navigating Nonprofit-Corporate Partnerships

Partnership ImageIf you are a fundraiser or work for a nonprofit, you probably know that the issue of corporate partnerships is dicey. A partnership can have great result in great things for an organization, but can also present certain “challenges” with donors and members who may question the relationship.

Sounds like a great topic for the #fundchat community!

Join us this Wednesday, August 17 at 9 pm EST on the topic: “How Fundraisers Can Maximize Nonprofit-Corporate Partnership Opportunities?”

What can you do right now? Please suggest specific questions on this topic that you would like to see discussed by the #fundchat community. Submit ideas for questions in the comments section below.

Thanks to @sldoolittle for offering the following questions:

  1. What steps do you take to qualify corporate prospects?
  2. What success have you had with corporate sponsors or cause marketing partnership?
  3. Under what circumstances would your organization decline corporate dollars?
  4. What are your strategies for stewarding corporate partnerships?

Plus, here are some articles to get the creative juices flowing:

You can follow the discussion by using your favorite Twitter client, but we recommend using Twebevent – click here. If you are newbie to Twitter chats, it’s a good idea to review the guidelines for participation.

Oh, and don’t forget to invite a friend and spread the word about #fundchat!

– Brendan (@brendankinney)

Questions for tonight’s #fundchat: Email Campaigns and Solicitations

Email Campaigns...I hope you are looking forward to tonight’s #fundchat on the topic of “Email Campaigns & Solicitations.” We kick things off at 9 pm EST. If you are new to #fundchat, you can learn about how it works here.

For those who like to be prepared (like some #fundchat participants I can think of) here is the line-up for tonight:

  1. How do you target/acquire new donors via an email campaign who may not be in your database?
  2. What is your orgs A/B testing strategy?
  3. Subject lines that lead to conversion?
  4. Timing/frequency of email appeals?
  5. No limits? How long/short should the copy be?
  6. How does a successful campaign “get” a donor and what turns them off?
  7. Metrics: How to you analyze your campaign and improve for the future?

Thanks very much to @npshana and @fundraisinisfun for suggesting the majority of these questions.

See you tonight!