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Know Your Audience: Storytelling Through the Generations

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By Sandra Larkin, Writer, Fundraiser, Communicator

Because we are literally hardwired to learn through stories, storytelling is perhaps the single most powerful communication tool available to fundraisers. Stories stimulate not only the analytical parts of our brains, but those that process sensory information, memory and emotion. Inside our heads, we share the experiences that happen in the story; we hear the crowd’s roar, smell popcorn and hotdogs, see the halftime band marching onto the field, lean forward with anticipation as the ball soars through the air.

A well-told story connects your donor, on an emotional level, to the way their gift can change a life, or change the world. By evoking imagination and empathy, a story makes giving a meaningful experience, not just a tax deduction. But not all stories are created equal, so telling the right story is crucial. “Know your audience” is a fundamental rule of communication, and the listener’s own experiences create the context in which your story is understood. Read more

What Fundraisers Want

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By Gil Israeli, Director of Prospect Research and Senior Writer, American Technion Society

I’ve gotten better at doing prospect research over the years, primarily because fundraiser colleagues have been generous in describing their work to me. After I provide them research, I follow up with the same five questions:

– How was the research useful?

– More specifically, in your meetings with the prospect, what research data did you leverage to get additional information from (about) the prospect?

– How did the meeting go?

– What’s your next step?

– Do you need additional research?

This is a good launching point for a rich conversation which will lead to plenty of other relevant topics such as prospect cultivation methods, planned giving, payment schedules, etc. Read more

My Letter To Your Vice President

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By Armando Zumaya Senior Vice President, Business Development and Campaign, The Mexican Museum

Don’t you hate unsolicited advice? I do. So let me give you some.

There is a better way to work with your Prospect Research and Management teams. When I lecture and meet my colleagues who lead large development teams, it’s becoming more common to hear smart and nimble prospecting and prospect management teams support VP level staff and their leadership.

However, it’s also amazing how many of my colleagues still put their Prospect Research and Management staff way down the organizational chart and rarely interact with them. They bury them in “Development Services”. The old view that Prospect Research and Management are passive, reactive services needs to be challenged.

My prospect research and management staff are my right hand strategic and tactical advisors. They report directly to my office, I do their reviews. They help me in a myriad of ways. I couldn’t imagine operating without that role in some shape or form. Read more

I Am A Matchmaker


By Steffanie Brown, Manager for Prospect Research & Development Services, Florida Institute of Technology

No, you won’t find me behind the scenes on a reality TV show or an online dating website. You’ll find me in an office at a university, though you might also find others like me at hospitals, museums, or social services agencies. I am a fundraising matchmaker.

I work in a field known variously as prospect research, prospect development, or other similar titles. However, when I am asked to explain my work to someone who isn’t as familiar with nonprofit fundraising, I often say, “I’m a matchmaker.” I match projects to potential donors (or vice versa), and sometimes potential donors to development officers. Read more

Thanking Your Donors: Do It Right!

By Alicia Cerreto (twitter) Philanthropy Consultant, Alicia

August 4th’s Google Doodle celebrated John Venn, the inventor of the Venn diagram. I spent some time with my five year old son mixing and matching the different pairs:

Transport + Tiny = Clown Car

Sea Life + Thrives in Cold = Angler Fish Read more

Attracting the Next Generation of Donors

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By David Munshine, President, The Munshine Group

“Life isn’t about the money you make, it’s what you do with your life to impact others.”

–from the “2014 Millennial Impact Report”

Attracting younger supporters is a big challenge for nonprofits. Most
fundraising strategies are geared to the older population (those born before
1945). While this group is generous—79% give to charity—year by year their
numbers are shrinking. So organizations need the next generation of donors to
replenish that pipeline of support. This includes millennials—those born between
1981 and 1993—and their older siblings, the 40-somethings.

How do you engage people who are early in their careers or still building them,
may be paying off student loans, saving for a home, or paying hefty child care
bills, and are not necessarily in the mindset of giving? Read more

The Allure of Proactive Research

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By Gil Israeli, Director of Prospect Research and Senior Writer, American Technion Society

Why didn’t you do my research first?, said my irritated colleague. I had an appointment!

If you’re a prospect researcher and you’ve ever heard these words, then you may have fallen into a common occupational trap. My intention in today’s post is to caution novice prospect researchers who tend to wander from their assigned duties of reactive research to the promised land of proactive research.

The former is what our colleagues ask for when they’ve already gone through the drawn-out process of identifying a prospect and securing the path to meeting this person. Their research requests are timely and critical. They have impending meetings and need research data (often on short notice) to better strategize their encounters. Read more

If You Believe in Predictive Modeling

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By Lawrence C. Henze, J.D., Principal Consultant, Target Analytics, Blackbaud

Sorcery, black magic, supernatural, paranormal, hoax, alien influence; these terms are but a smattering of ‘explanations’ given over the centuries of humankind for mysterious phenomena that defy rational thought.

Until recently, using predictive modeling or statistical analytics to identify gift prospects also bordered on the inexplicable. For many, statistics or math are areas of study to be taken only as required. Over the years, my personal favorite is the use of the term ‘fairy dust’. Well thanks to J.M. Barrie, we all know that we only have to heed the advice of Peter Pan: “If you believe in fairies, clap your hands.” Of course, it also helps to see the power of predictive modeling in addressing the questions that lead to greater success in fundraising. Read more

18 Great Resources Every Fundraiser Should Know About

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By Helen E. Brown, President, Helen Brown Group

Here at the Helen Brown Group, we get lots of questions from clients that aren’t just about prospect research, relationship management or analytics…and finding the answers to non-traditional questions is a lot of fun for me and the team!

So I thought you might like to see the answers to some of the questions we’ve gotten lately from clients asking “where would you recommend that I look for…?”

Everything on the list is free (or worth every penny). Enjoy!

Campaign planning tool: the gift range calculator

This is the site you head to when your board chair says “Welcome aboard. What will we need to do to raise $10 million?” No need to panic, just use this handy little gift pyramid calculation tool. Read more

A Change of Seasons: Fundraising in the Summer Heat

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By Richard Guiss, Associate Director of Development, Martha’s Village Kitchen

Seasonal giving is a particular challenge for our nonprofit. However, I am not speaking about giving during the holidays, but during the change of seasons, specifically from summer to winter.

As a nonprofit serving the desert communities in the Coachella Valley in California, the change in seasons creates a dramatic shift in our donor base. Donors who live in the coldest area of the county spend the winter here in the desert. The “season” ends in May and many leave before the summer heat arrives. Read more