How To Engage Younger Donors

Our donors are all getting older! How do we engage the next generation of philanthropists before it all goes sideways?!

I hear this panicked question a LOT. And I usually give some unexpected advice: don’t bother! Yes, that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but think about it a bit more. You should get young people involved with your charity where appropriate, but the fundraising team will typically get the best results from focusing on their older donors. If your organization has infinite staff and money, you can do both of course…and then jump on your unicorn and ride to the moon.

Have a listen here for more!

baby inside white bathtub with water

Not a top giver yet!

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3 MORE Things Your Org Needs to Succeed at Fundraising


Ready for more after reading part one? I thought so!

Here are 3 MORE top-down approaches to improving your charity’s fundraising efforts.

Like my first list, you’ll notice that these do not directly involve the fundraising team. Here we go.


1. Increase senior management presence in the community. Fundraisers can only do so much. Your charity’s community presence should be deliberate, not ad hoc. Recommendation: Send your board, CEO and senior management to board of trade meetings, Rotary and other service clubs, and events run by other charities. Approach community relations from a fundraising angle in the same way you might do government relations.

2. Align communications team to fundraising goals. Comms and fundraising are very often two distinct teams with separate goals and this can rob a charity of money-making opportunities. Recommendation: As I said in my last post, the mission is #1. However, communications should start from the position of supporting the development team. Every part of the donor cycle – acquisition, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship – should form the basis of any charity’s communications plan.

3. Get rid of your old-school human resources approach. Competition for fundraisers keeps growing and many of us experience the endless hamster wheel of poaching and being poached (along with its negative impact on donor relationships). So why are we so stingy with perks? Maybe you can’t afford raises but try one-off bonuses instead when times are good. Get on the flex-time Try a 9-day-fortnight program. Let non-essential staff go home between Christmas and New Year’s. Have a good look at your professional development budget. Figure out how people can work from home effectively. Note that 4/6 of those ideas are basically cost-free!

Easy to implement? Not always! But if you’re looking for more fundraising revenue, it’s worth the effort. Thanks for reading!


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3 Things Your Org Needs to Succeed at Fundraising (spoiler: none of them involve fundraisers)


Hi there! Ever wonder what more you can do or say when your organization is looking for more fundraising revenue?

The majority of established mid- to large-size charities look to major gifts from individuals to secure sustainable funding, and donor trends prove this is a smart way to go. But is your organization holding its fundraisers back from success? Probably.

I argue for a top-down approach, starting with the board and senior management (not the fundraisers!). Check your org for the following. Nailing even one of these items will see your fundraising efforts improve.

  1. Mission #1, Fundraising #2. Charities need to think about fundraising in the same way they think about their mission. I’m not one of those who puts fundraising in first place, but it should be the second most important activity at your organization. Not finance, not volunteers, not HR. Recommendation: Create an internal management team (including a couple of key board members) to regularly discuss big-picture opportunities and threats to your fundraising work.
  1. Board recruitment. Your board must include members with philanthropic connections and experience in fundraising. And not just one token wealthy person who’s expected to continually exhaust her friends with requests! Recommendation: Get suggestions from your fundraising team and recruit appropriate directors from your current pool of major gift donors (like those soon-to-get-bored gala organizers for example). Avoid hiving off this work to sub-committees – it needs board-level commitment.
  1. Board & Senior Management Education. Why bother sending your fundraisers to conferences (did I just say that?) if your senior team doesn’t have a clue what’s involved in fundraising? The fundraiser will just end up coming back to face the same blocks they had before. Recommendation: Increase the org’s ownership of fundraising by regularly including training and professional development at senior management and board meetings. 

Yup, these are not easy and I don’t know a charity that’s doing them all perfectly. Try to get your team interested in this approach and see how far you can take it. I’ll publish a “part 2” to this post next month. Thanks for checking in!


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Tracking Donor Relationships: Your Cheat Sheet for Raiser’s Edge


Track the love!


Some relationship fundraisers dread using their customer relationship management system (CRM). Too complicated – too fussy – too many tabs – too many other things to do instead!


Raiser’s Edge is a great example of a very common CRM system that may cause you to break out in hives. Sure, the first tab looks easy with spots for name, address and contact information, but how does a good relationship fundraiser track the donor activity needed to drive dollars? And how do they do it without spending hours in the database that should be spent with donors instead?

Most Raiser’s Edge systems are set up with 13 tabs. 13! Focus on these 3 in your relationship building and major gifts work.


Use this tab for any communications with the person or organization: emails, phone calls, meetings, mail.


  • Decide whether the action belongs to the individual or their organization and enter accordingly.
  • Work with your team to determine what kinds of actions you should be entering. For example, don’t enter every email sent back and forth to set a meeting date. You may just want to enter an initial action for the meeting request, and populate it with significant details later.
  • When completing the action notepad, include detailed info, paste in relevant emails or letter content. For signed letters and more formal or larger documents, use the media tab (see below).
  • You can set an auto-reminder on any action for a follow-up task to pop up on your RE home page, in Outlook or both. (RE prompts you to create these after you save an action unless disabled.)


Use this tab to enter information about the constituent, not to enter interactions you have had with them (that’s an action). Examples: biographical information and other research, articles, awards, donations to other charities, strategy, etc. Related documents can be pasted straight in or attached to the media tab.


Use it to store key scanned documents like proposals, signed gift agreements and photos.

Original documents that are legal in nature (planned gifts like wills, real estate transfers, etc.) should also be stored in locked cabinets in the office.

Did you notice the emphasis on the actions tab? It is SO important to track your moves and be able to pull a list of them to see how your activity is generating donations. And if for some reason the money is coming in slowly, your activity will prove to your boss that you’re doing everything you can.

Interested in learning more? Check my online courses at BCIT:

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Starting Your Planned Giving Program in 3 Steps

star wars

Good things come in 3’s


3 steps? Could anything be easier?? No, not really.





Update your messaging to let donors know you’re open to receiving bequests.

  • On your direct mail reply device: Add a couple of checkboxes with these questions – Have you included our charity in your will? Would you like more information?
  • On your website’s donation page: “Please remember us in your will. Call Susy for more information.” (it’s also smart to list your full legal name, address and charitable number here)
  • In your newsletters: Include a testimonial or interview with any donors you know who have included your charity in their will.


Look for prospective bequest donors in your database and call them to build a relationship.

Typical planned giving donors often come from one or more of these donor groups.

  • Frequent givers, like monthly donors
  • Long-time donors, especially those who have been supporting your charity from the beginning
  • Older donors, especially those born in the 50’s or earlier

Wondering how to approach that call? I like to phone (or email) and ask them if I can interview them at some point. In the interview, I ask why they started giving to our charity, what other causes interest them, whether we are communicating with them in the right way, whether they might like to see our work first-hand, etc.

I also ask them if we might use their story in a publication sometime and let them know that I will follow up when and if the opportunity arises.


Track your actions and follow up! Tag prospective donors in your database so you can keep in touch. Invite them to your charity’s events, send them information during Leave a Legacy Month and try to identify the point where you might ask them “Would you ever consider including our charity in your will?”

Final Thoughts 

Are you wondering why I’m only talking about gifts in wills (bequests) instead of the many other types of planned gifts? Because it’s the one you’re most likely to get and worrying about other planned giving vehicles isn’t worth your time at this point.

Keep up with the three steps because repetition is your friend when it comes to planned giving. Creating or updating a will is something everyone knows they should do, but takes quite a bit of mulling over first.  Good luck!

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How to Study for the CFRE Exam

Did you read my other post on prepping for your Certified Fundraising Executive certification (CFRE)? If not, check it for tips on how to get your points for the three categories. Once you have those, you can study and register to sit for the CFRE exam. All the information can be found at

To help you get ready for the test, please listen to this quick 5-minute clip summarizing my own experience studying for and taking the CFRE exam. Good luck!


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How to Get Your CFRE

Hi friends! Please enjoy this 3-minute audio post on how to get started on your Certified Fundraising Executive designation, the global credential for the fundraising profession. This post focuses on the 3 categories of points that you need before writing the exam and the basics on how to earn them.

In a future post, I’ll chat a bit about the exam itself. Enjoy!

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Give Up On Getting Your Board To Fundraise?!

A 3-minute audio blog on when and why to give up trying to get your board to fundraise, and some better ideas on how to spend your (and their) time.

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Tips for Your Transition to the Charitable Sector

Want to jump the fence?

Want to jump the fence?

So you want to jump the fence from corporate refugee to the charitable sector? Read on for an insider’s advice.

Think about your motivation

It takes passion, but don’t stop there. We’re in a competitive sector with high standards that can be very fast-paced. You’ll often be faced with business-like expectations paired with non-profit-level resources. Employers will ask about your passion for their specific cause but will ultimately hire based on the skills you bring. Be ready to talk about both elements as it usually comes up in the first phone screening.

Revise your resume, cover letter & LinkedIn profile

A generic resume won’t cut it. Find the transferable skills and highlight them in charity sector-specific wording. For example, your sales experience could translate into building donor relationships and closing gifts. Your telemarketing experience could be applied to working with a confidential help line.

Above all, spell it out in your cover letter. Don’t let the employer try to guess which skills match the job description.

And a word about LinkedIn – if you don’t have a profile, now’s the time. A lack of professional presence online makes it harder for people to decide whether to short-list you for a position. At worst, it implies that you are not computer literate. Make sure there is a professional looking head shot and title, and that you have recent and relevant positions listed.

Network strategically

Check and local charity associations, like the Association of Fundraising Professionals. There’s no need to pay membership fees yet – just sign up to attend select events and have a business card ready to hand out.

Explore informational interviews too, but be selective. Connect with organizations that you’d actually want to work for, avoid any that are currently hiring, and be respectful of people’s time if you get a meeting (30 minutes is plenty).

Prepare to start at the bottom

 You can move fast in this sector, especially if you have work experience, management skills, etc. But like every sector, employers are typically going to pick the person with direct experience over someone with none. Start your search on sites like or Phil’s Careers for job titles like “administrative assistant” and “coordinator.”

Don’t panic – it’ll take time

If you interview well and have transferable skills to back up your personal passion it can still take six months or more to land an entry-level job in a good market. Be patient, keep networking and good luck!

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How to Prep for Your Fundraising Interview

tips-software-383x467You already know the basic preparation for your job interview:  examples of successes, how you handle failure and challenging co-workers, and what to say when they ask you about your weaknesses.

But as a fundraiser there is some specific preparation you should do that will set you apart from other applicants and will allow both parties to understand what you could bring to the role.

Read on for some simple homework and get ready to dazzle them with your analytical and creative smarts.

First, before you even start researching the charity’s work, look up each interviewer on LinkedIn. Do they have a fundraising background? Is it similar or different to yours? This can tell you whether you’re being brought in to maintain a set program or to instigate something new. Do you have any mutual connections? If you find out that a friend or colleague worked at the organization, call them to get insider information on workplace culture, leadership and challenges. In the interview, make sure to only bring up connections that are relevant. Bragging or name-dropping might make them question whether you lack discretion.

Next up, start researching the organization by looking up their last three annual reports online. These next points assume that you’re in an interview with someone from the fundraising team, not just an initial screening with human resources staff.

  1. Before the interview, look at their fundraising totals for the last three years and note whether they have gone up, down or stayed flat. Ask them about the results in a non-judgmental way. Example: “I saw in your annual reports that fundraising revenue has been fairly flat over the last three fiscal years. Has it been easy for your organization to maintain funding in this economy?” This should launch a healthy conversation on plans and goals, or at least provide an opportunity to bond over common challenges in the sector.
  2. Ask them how many donors they have in a given year, and what portion are annual, monthly or major gifts. Find out which donor pool they are most interested in growing or protecting and why. Don’t feel compelled to offer a “fix” every time they mention a problem, but be ready with open-ended questions to get as much information as you can. Example: “So you’re looking to grow your number of monthly donors. What would the best case scenario be over the next two years for that portfolio?”
  3. Ask them about their retention rate. (If it’s below 40%, or if they have no idea, there may be trouble.)  In any case, be ready to discuss how you could help increase their success. Every position on a fundraising team can impact retention and your thoughts here will show them that you understand the importance of this critical issue.
  4. Get them to tell you what kinds of donor stewardship they do. Most charities send regular newsletters and have a thank you and recognition program of some kind. If they ask for your ideas, be ready with examples of stewardship that got positive reactions from donors. Be sensitive to the fact that many charities wish they were doing more inventive stewardship, but can’t always justify the resources it takes. Again, this will work for any kind of fundraising role – stewardship should be owned by the whole team.

As someone who has spent a lot of time interviewing fundraisers, I can safely say that few are doing this kind of work beforehand. Candidates definitely stand out from the competition with this little bit of effort. If you have some other successful interview tips to add, please share your comments here.

This article was first published by the awesome peeps at 


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