Fundraising In Tough Times: How To Beat Your Mike Tyson

Challenger Evander Holyfield (R) knocks down WBA heavyweight champion Mike Tyson during the 6th round of their title fight November 9, 1996 in Las Vegas. Holyfield won the championship with an 11th round TKO. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn PP05060142  GMH/CMC Reuters / Picture supplied by Action Images *** Local Caption *** RBBORH1996110900001.jpg

(REUTERS/Gary Hershorn) 

You’ve been hit. Oil prices keep falling. What is it, $27 or lower today? The Dow Jones doubles one day and then slides down triple digits the next. You realize your corporate funding will shrink, and your donors will cringe at their investments and cut their donations in half this year.

Sometimes fundraising is like boxing.

Left hook: competition among non-profits for limited corporate resources keeps growing. And they might have a stronger case than you do.

Jab-jab: you’re understaffed – have paperwork, calls and meetings with donors.
You’re pulled in different directions – every program fights for survival – they all need you to raise funds for them, and only them!

What do you do? Get up and fundraise. Fight!

You’ve got to beat your Mike Tyson! Evan Holyender, a four-time world heavy weight champion who fought Tyson in 1996, noted in his interview, that throughout his life, he heard again and again, “you can’t beat Tyson.”

Well, Holyender actually managed to do just that. “If you notice in that fight, I am the one who engaged, I made it happen because if you give any sign that you’re caving into him or take a step back, he gets stronger, so I realized I wasn’t going to do that.”

Holyender didn’t cave in to challenges. He learned all he could about his opponent; he assessed and measured Tyson’s best moves. Most importantly, he engaged, probed new punches, led the fight, and won.

And you can too.

Here are the Top 10 focus areas that can help you win:

1. Energize Your Most Important Stakeholders to Create a Nimble Fundraising Roadmap: Get your Board, staff, partners and volunteers together to develop a comprehensive fundraising strategy. My opinion is that it shouldn’t be a rigid, super conservative scenario, but rather a nimble roadmap for the next 3-5 years.

Granted, there will be changes along the way, but unless there is a strategic pathway, sporadic efforts won’t bring maximal success. Inspire honest dialogue among your most important stakeholders with the aim of carving out sensible, realistic and accountable goals for your fundraising efforts. Everyone should own their fundraising role, and be accountable for concrete follow up steps.

2. Proudly Hold Your Banner: Come up with a Compelling Case Statement for Your Non-Profit: Develop a compelling case statement, a document highlighting the top reasons why donors should support your organization. This has to be a document that magnetizes your supporters and donors. If you have one already, perhaps it’s a good time to take a fresh look and see whether you need to update it.

To create your best case statement, learn from Making the Case, an all-time fundraising classic by Jerold Panas.

3. Observe, Measure, Modify, Apply: If you don’t evaluate your past year’s fundraising performance, figuring out ROI and measuring the value of your efforts, you might as well try to play Powerball – same chances of winning!

Go back to your outreach results and figure out the cost, the amount raised, and time invested in each effort. Was it worth it? Should you change something? Did you learn from your mistakes? Who can help you this time?

4. Mine Deep to Find Your Gold: Are you doing enough to identify new prospects? How closely do you look at donor segmentation? Did you identify specific actions to reach out to each donor segment? How about starting with the ones who gave your non-profit $100 or more for the past two years? Even though these individuals graciously supported your organization, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have other causes. You need to remind them of the importance of your mission. What about your own network? Do you leverage your business network to find true gems?

5. Zoom in on Your Best Bets: Major Donors and Foundations
According to GivingUSA’s 2015 report, in 2014, individuals accounted for the largest source of charitable giving at 72% of total giving! Foundations followed next at 15%, while bequests (8%), and corporations (5%) ended the list.

Moreover, the report stated that 98.4% of high net worth households give to charity. Most high net worth donors cite “giving back to the community” as a chief motivation for giving.

What does this tell us? We must direct our efforts to focus on major donors and foundations. These are the areas that may provide the best ROI even in times of crisis! Instead, what are we doing? Are we still trying to get corporations on board?

The main concern, especially from smaller non-profits, is lack of staff and experience in approaching major donors. It’s time to engage your best supporters – volunteers and Board members. These people should be able to open doors for you.

6. Don’t Hide in Your Digital Box: Call, Meet, Listen, Repeat: Remember – you’ve got to engage your donors. Yes, it’s so easy to send 100 emails and put a check mark in your plan.

But the world hasn’t changed much. Before Artificial Intelligence takes over your fundraising duties, learn to use ancient tools of human communication – meet your donors face to face, and build personal relationships. No fancy app can replace the human touch. So far.

Building relationships doesn’t mean finding the right moment to ask for funding. Rather, it should be a genuine path to learning more about your donors, and organically evolve into specific areas of interest.

7. Love Your Donors: A Timely Thank-You Goes a Long Way: In good times, did you thank your donors enough? Probably not. Well, in hard times, you have to double your efforts. Send your donors handwritten notes. Randomly call your donor list on set dates. Go and meet them in their offices and homes. Share your experience, and ask for advice.

If you haven’t yet established the habit of writing thank-you notes, perhaps you can learn from Jimmy Fallon? The NY Post has a nice story on him and the newly rediscovered art of thank-you cards!

8. When In Doubt, Innovate: Don’t Let Crisis Dictate Your Course:While you want to follow a balanced fundraising approach, you can’t neglect innovative approaches and dismiss risk-takers. What if there’s a fantastic idea that can bring new supporters to your non-profit, boost your mission and entice donors to give more? Shouldn’t you try it when it’s rough out there?

We all can learn from successful U.S. Navy commander Michael Abrashoff, the captain in charge of USS Benhold, a guided missile destroyer, who in 3 years transformed the low performing ship into one of the highest performing ships in the U.S. Navy. Here’s what he wrote about innovation in his bestselling book It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy:

Organizations should reward risk-takers, even if they fall short once in a while. Let them know that promotions and glory go to innovators and pioneers, not to stand-patters who fear controversy and avoid trying to improve anything. To me, that’s the key to keeping an organization young, vital, growing, and successful. Stasis is death to any organization. Evolve or die: It’s the law of life. Rules that made sense when they were written may well be obsolete. Make them extinct, too.

9. Spearhead Your Direct Mail Outreach: Direct mail can deliver. According to Rebecca Gregory Segovia, EVP at Pursuant, for many non-profits “the direct mail channel often delivers between 60 and 80 percent of total revenue. The email channel provides between 5 and 15 percent. On average, direct mail response rates stand at 10 to 30 times that of email, and even higher when compared to online display.”

What does your direct mail data show you? Do you regularly track results? Do you personalize your appeals? Even though it’s only January – it’s time to think of your annual appeal letter. Start with evaluating your past letters – see what worked and what didn’t. Try not to repeat the same mistakes.

I really liked how fundraising experts from Bloomerang, a software company that provides donor management solutions to non-profits, identified questions you need to answer in your appeal, for both new and current donors:

New Donors:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why should I trust you?
  • Why do you matter?
  • How do you relate to me?
  • What’s the rush?

Current Donors:

  • Who did you do with my prior gift?
  • Are you grateful?
  • What do you want now?
  • Do you have proof?
  • Again: Who are you?
  • What’s the rush?

Source: Bloomerang

And here’s a nice infographic for an annual appeal letter from Bloomerang: Of course, you can use these focused questions for all your donor appeals.

10. Online Fundraising: Surf and Fundraising

If you think that online fundraising isn’t a big deal, then you need a reality check. According to Network for Good’s research, which covers $233 million in online giving to 45,000 nonprofits, there was a 23% increase in online donations from 2013 to 2014.

Moreover, for a popular digital fundraising outreach, like GivingTuesday, the data show that mobile giving hiked up tremendously. Based on Blackbaud data, 17% of contributors who donated for GivingTuesday on December 1, 2015, did so on a mobile device, which is 13% higher than in 2014!

Most importantly, Network for Good report stated: “Online donors expect a connection—not simply a transaction—with the organization they support. The level of connection to an organization that a donor experiences online is directly tied to their likelihood of giving, giving more—and giving more often. Even small upgrades to the donor experience make a measurable difference in online giving.”

Here are two great resources for you to learn about various online fundraising tools:

Joseph Hogue, an investment analyst and crowdfunding expert, provided a fabulous ultimate list of crowdfunding and fundraising websites that you should explore today.

NonProfitTechForGood also came up with a list of 9 fundraising tools that your organization may consider using. Check SnapDonate or PromiseOrPay apps are a terrific way to energize your mobile and online fundraising. While some apps may have disappeared due to tight competition, others are still out there for your use.

Conclusion: Keep on Learning and Develop a Granite Chin

When you look back at this year in December, after you’ve put all these approaches and fundraising tools into practice, you’ll surely give a sigh of relief. Congratulations – you delivered even in bad times! Yet, if you stop there, you’ll lose your fight in 2017. So as the IBF super middleweight world champion Carl Froch advises, develop a granite chin.

“If you’ve got a granite chin, like I have, you’re immovable. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, or how hard you train, if you aren’t tough enough, you won’t win. It’s the reason a lot of fighters who have success at the Olympics can’t replicate it when they go pro – they just aren’t tough enough.”

Now go out there and win! Good luck with your fundraising this year!


Persuasion, Fundraising and Rabbits


Have you ever tried the popular trick of pulling the rabbit out of the hat?

It’s easy.

First you need to get a very small rabbit.

Sometimes these little fellows graze in your backyard. Just catch one.

(Use carrots, lettuce, apples, Brussel sprouts or even apple cider.)

Once you’ve caught one, place this little furry ball in a specially designed black handkerchief.

If you’re wondering why magicians work with rabbits and not cats or dogs, the answer is simple. Rabbits, unlike people, naturally sit still in the dark.

The next step is very important.

When the magician picks up the hat, he also pulls the handkerchief with the rabbit inside and sticks it into the hat.

If you were to see the magician in slow motion, you’d have seen that when the hat is picked up, and in goes the rabbit.

Is that all? Pretty much.

But done very fast, it makes you experience a little wonder.

Rabbits are easy, you say.

Well, how about making a much larger object vanish?

Perhaps, the Statue of Liberty?


How would you conceal it in front of millions of viewers worldwide?

David Copperfield, just did this and awed his audience in 1983.

Do you know how?

If you haven’t yet heard of this famous trick, or think it’s a giant handkerchief that David smartly used, you will find the answer at the end of this article.

Power of Persuasion

Bruce Springsteen states it best in his “Magic”:

“I got a coin in my palm; I can make it disappear,
Got a card up my sleeve, name it and I’ll pull it out your ear,
Got a rabbit in my hat, if you want to come and see,
This is what will be, this is what will be….

I got shackles on my wrist, soon I’ll slip ‘em and be gone,
Put me in a box in your river, I’ll rise up a singing this song,
Trust none of what you hear, even less of what you see—
This is what will be, this is what will be…”

So why are we still attracted to magicians?

People have always wanted to find the secrets of persuasion.

How do you gain the full attention of a fellow human being? What makes another person tick? Doesn’t persuasion give you a sense of power?

How can you develop these skills? And should you even try?

Well, some authors think that the secret lies in developing “an awesome charisma,” and give you 12 ways to project it just right.

Other experts believe that you should use nothing but the six principles of Robert Cialdini’s Influence: reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.

Still, there’s something missing in here.

It almost feels like a canned formula for universal success, doesn’t it?

Perhaps, we need to dig a little deeper?

Non-Profit Fundraising: Field-Testing Persuasion

There are millions of worthy non-profits, which are trying to raise just enough to accomplish a multitude of very important social, educational and humanitarian projects.

Each of them is tasked with the challenge of asking other fellow human beings for money. Every single year.

So how do you persuade people to give?

There are a ton of advisors on fundraising.

Some offer Neuromarketing as a new dogma. Apparently there are immutable laws of how your brain works. And you are supposed to use it on your donors, tricking their impulses with proven formulas and set dialogues.

May it work?

I’m sure it may for some.

“I got a coin in my palm…” Grab their attention, they say.

Others believe that you should be making glossy brochures and spilling all your organization’s knowledge into the poor paper, which can stand anything and everything. Then you go and shop around, they say.

“Got a card in my sleeve…”

This is a waste of money, I say. Yet some claim it worked for them.

So what should you do?

There is one sure way to land your first million: approach your individual and major donors.

Talk to them.

Listen to what they’ve got to say. Listen again. And then listen some more.

After that, go ahead and simply ask your donor for help.

You’ll be surprised that you will not need to pull a rabbit from your hat, nor make the Statue of Liberty vanish.

All you have to do is open a channel of human communication. Trust another person. Entrust yourself to this person.

Humans like human touch. They can feel your authenticity. It’s so easy to forget this simple approach in the digital world.

Meet your donors. Listen to them. And ask for help.

That’s when you’ll suddenly realize that you don’t need to persuade anyone.

All you have to do is open up and be human.

And yes, you may let your rabbit out in the wild.

P.S. David Copperfield’s trick was quite simple. And no, people were not mass hypnotized. The trick was in changing the frame of reference. To view his grandiose undertaking, Copperfield placed his audience on a rotating platform. So instead of moving the rabbit, Copperfield decided to literally move all his viewers. It was dark, and the lighting and the magician’s outstanding communication helped to conceal the slow rotation of the platform.

7 Simple Ways to Triple Your Fundraising Goal This Year


Let me ask you a quick question: do you like to ask for money? I bet you don’t. And that’s no surprise. Raising money is a major challenge not only for you but also for many charities’ boards of directors.

According to BoardSource, fundraising ranks #1 among board areas needing improvement, and has done so for many years.” Unless you are a fundraiser or insurance broker, this is the last thing you want to do in your life.

When asked how they feel about fundraising, board members and nonprofit staff usually respond that they feel anxiety, embarrassment and doubt.

Frankly, what I hear again and again privately is something along these lines: “Why should I beg for money? It’s too embarrassing to ask for money from my friends and colleagues.”

Does this sound familiar to you?

Before I go further, I want to ask you to consider the joy of fundraising. Yes, the joy of fundraising.

I really love this quote by Henry Rosso, a remarkably successful fundraiser: “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the world the joy of giving.” 

The joy of giving – think about it. By fundraising, we connect the valuable mission of our nonprofit with people who are able to support it with their resources. In this way, we serve as catalysts of change in the world.

In her article “Four Steps to Take Board Members from Fear of Fundraising to Enthusiasm,” Gail Perry, a successful fundraiser and non-profit consultant, suggests changing one’s perspective from a “tin cup mentality” to a “changing the world” approach. 

She advises non-profits to ask board members, “How do you feel when you write a check to your favorite charity?” Perry shares that in her board retreats she often hears the following answers: “I feel very proud,” “it makes me feel fulfilled,” “what a joyful experience,” “it connected me with my community,” etc.

This is a powerful message. The act of giving actually makes you feel happier, more joyful and fulfilled. 

Now you probably see where I am leading you.

The disconnect between these two important roles, a fundraiser and a happy giver, can be bridged by simply changing the mindset. Fundraising is not begging — fundraising is fulfilling the mission of changing the world through your nonprofit.

Of course, to make it happen for you, you will need to have an effective strategy, and you’ll have to focus on consistent execution of the goals you set for your nonprofit this year.

Let me introduce you to 7 simple ways that will help you to triple your fundraising goal this year.

1. Choose an Effective Fundraising System

Every nonprofit fundraiser has various systems and strategies to advance the goals of the nonprofit they serve in.

I personally like the AAA Way to Fundraising Success created by Kay Sprinkel Grace. It helps to find the right fundraising role for each of your board members. It works because when “people feel good about what they are doing, they do it.”

Here are the roles that each board member can choose from:

Ambassador – open doors, build new relationships for your nonprofit

Advocate – makes the case and is passionate about a particular project of the nonprofit.

Asker – someone who’s comfortable soliciting gifts from contacts you already have.

You help your board members select the right role by providing them with a simple questionnaire that they can fill out. Once you establish the roles, board members will surprise you. Because they’ll stay in their “comfort zone,” the fundraising process will be effortless. Simple? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.

The fact is that the AAA system helps you by making friends and building relationships. This in turn leads to giving, and long-term giving, at that.

2. Recruit Well-Connected Volunteers

Whatever system you choose, people are the key to the fundraising success. Without the right people in place, even if you had the perfect Money Ball algorithm, you’d still raise zero. 

What kind of volunteers do you need? Passionate, yes, but also well-connected and respected local volunteers.

These volunteers will lead you to the influencers and community leaders in your town. Just two or three well-connected supporters for your cause are enough to get moving, though more never hurts either.

Let me tell you a story about how it worked for me in the past. When I was given the task of raising a six-digit goal for a nonprofit in Richmond, VA, I didn’t know anyone in that city except for one person I’d met on LinkedIn.

Yet through active LinkedIn and real-time networking, I was fortunate to find three well-connected local volunteers willing to take on our cause. These three volunteers tapped into their networks of the movers and shakers in Richmond, who connected me further to their friends. This included major foundations, prominent philanthropists and high net worth individuals, whose lead gifts paved the way for others to donate as well.

So think of your networks, and those of your supporters. Have you discovered your true reach yet?

3. Hone Your Story

If it worked in ancient Greece, it will work for you today. Despite the digital revolution, human beings crave authentic stories.

So take your time, and write your own Legend or Myth (also called a Case Statement), which should be as inspirational as it information-rich. Oftentimes nonprofits try to put so much information into their case statements that they become unreadable. A mish-mash of stats, financials, and dull text doesn’t make for a powerful read.

As Joseph Barbato and Danielle Furlich noted in Writing For A Good Cause, “case statements are anthems…case statements tell stories, cite achievements, provide endorsements, and carry striking images.”

However, when you are all set to write your first Odyssey, keep in mind what Tom Ahern pointed out in his book How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money: “fundraising communications are NOT about getting people to read. Fundraising communications are about getting people to ACT.”

To make your case stand out, suggests Ahern, answer three simple questions: Why us? Why now? Why you? 

Finally, throughout the message don’t be shy about asking for money. After all, isn’t that why you are writing?

4. Find Your Blue Ocean Niches

It still amazes me how many nonprofits don’t use their strategic advantage of having a unique product that makes them stand out from others. Instead, they are all following the same highly competitive funding streams, using the same templates and getting nowhere.

Why not look into a Blue Ocean Strategy? Authored by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, this book outlines a strategy to create uncontested market space. The authors believe that “cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.” Instead, based on thorough research of 150 strategic moves, the authors advise readers to consider creating “blue oceans” – untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.

Does it work only in the for-profit world? It works perfectly for nonprofits as well.

A great example of this is the New York Public Library. Dr. Zunaira Munir, an internationally acclaimed expert and keynote speaker on Blue Ocean Strategy, and the founder and Managing Director of Strategize Blue, demonstrates in a case study how a shrewd strategy pivot helped the Library make its competition irrelevant. 

In short, back in 2002-04, the Library was struggling with deep funding cuts and intensifying competition from super-size bookstores and e-media players.

Instead of diving into a head-to-head battle with its rivals, its new Director of Public Programs Paul Holdengräber followed a blue ocean strategy and launched a totally new market space by creating a series of public program events. This triggered an increased demand, and attendance rose over 400 percent!

Now it’s your turn. Find new “blue oceans” in your fundraising strategy. Experiment with new approaches that have worked in a different industry. Create your own space.

5. Create Predictable Lead Generation

Every successful fundraiser will attest to this simple truth – if you are not prospecting every single day, you are not going to reach your long-term fundraising goals. Thanks to a hint from a friend, I discovered the Cold Calling 2.0 approach laid out in Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross.

I bought it in paperback and my $20+ investment has paid back big time.

Cold Calling 2.0 means “prospecting into cold accounts to generate new business without using any cold calls.”

The secret of Ross’ system lies in smart email campaign messaging. “Rather than sending hundreds of mass emails at a time in big bursts, the idea here is to send a regular smaller number (50-100) of emails per person each day.”

The beauty of the system is that when done correctly, it guarantees you 5 to 10 responses each day! Now that’s real prospecting, isn’t it?

The trick is in the email message itself. Instead of sending a bulk mail with bulk messaging describing every single accomplishment of your organization, you will need to send a very short email that basically asks for advice. This tiny laser focused bits of information do not overwhelm the receiver, but honestly ask for connection with the right decision maker.

When I tried this system in practice, it was simply fantastic! And I used my LinkedIn InMails for this outreach. Thanks to the system, every day I get a response from corporate and individual prospects. And if I can do it, you surely can do it as well.

6. Pick Up the Phone: Make Calls to Target Foundations

Based on the Giving USA 2014 report, giving by foundations increased an estimated 5.7 percent in 2013 (4.2 percent adjusted for inflation). “Giving by foundations has increased for the last three years (adjusted for inflation), generally reflecting increases in assets and the increased confidence of grant makers concerning their financial recovery.”

Yet according to the Center for Effective Philanthropy research, 48% of charity leaders say foundations are oblivious to their needs.

If you are one of the tens of thousands of nonprofits seeking foundation grants, you must understand one simple truth. If you’d like to be considered, you need to spend time on research and active communication with your target foundation. Because if you think that hiring a professional grant writer and shooting dozens of proposals a year to various foundations will work, chances are it will lead you to disappointment. 

The harsh reality is that foundations are flooded with proposals, and even if you have a worthwhile project that is going to eradicate poverty, it may not even get to the right person to be considered.

Here is my advice to get results:

A) Spend money or time on thoroughly researching your target foundation. If you have no extra funding for acquiring access to foundation databases, go to the Foundation Center, and invest some quality time in selecting the right target group.

If your nonprofit is luckier than that, then you may want to think of buying foundation databases. There are plenty of good databases on the market. I personally found FoundationSearch quite useful.

B) Once you’ve done your research, forget about email, and instead, pick up the phone and make some calls. This is the best way to understand the foundation’s focus and needs, and have a productive conversation with someone who will give you the right answers, and on top of this, appreciate your outreach. You will be surprised how many small family foundations do not even have a website! Granted, you may run into some dry wells along the way, but trust me, you will find some oasis lands through this journey.

And as Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, one of the country’s leading fundraising consultants suggests, you need to make at least two more calls to make sure that you have established a strong connection. On your second call after you apply to the grant, “is a good time to ask when decisions will be made and when you might expect to hear. You may also invite the program officer to visit your organization and/or take them on a tour of your program or facility.”

C) Use strategic networking to connect with decision makers. Find out about major conferences or workshops in your area where top foundation officers will be present. Use LinkedIn and foundation websites to learn as much as you can about these foundations and participating staff. Then all you have to do is to prepare your thoughtful questions and have your elevator speech handy. Have you created and practiced your elevator pitch?

7. Focus on Individual Major Donors and Community Influencers

While foundation outreach should be an important part of your long-term strategy, one area which is often overlooked and underappreciated is the individual donor. According to Giving USA 2014 report, the single largest contributor to the increase in total charitable giving in 2013, over 2012, was an increase of $9.69 billion in giving by individuals. This is a powerful signal.

Who is this mighty individual donor?

Well, it could be your next door neighbor, or someone who is the best golf buddy of your Board member. But most probably, it’s the donor who is already on your list of supporters, who has not been approached for a major gift just yet.

According to Blackbaud’s research Best Practices for Fundraising Success, many nonprofit organizations expect to receive 80 percent of their funding from 20 percent of their donors.

Yet recently, “many organizations have seen this ratio shift to 95/5 or even 97/3. This dramatic change is due to a combination of shifting wealth, a weakening economy, and the changing priorities of funders.”

Moreover, in today’s volatile economic conditions, you may face an increasingly likely reality that your donor base has begun to shrink, while many of your usual suspects get overused.

What is the way out?

 What you need to do is smartly diversify your approach. The Spectrem Group study indicated that there were 8.6 million households in the U.S. with a net worth (excluding primary residence)
 of at least $1 million.
Tap into your Board’s network, exhaust all possible options by having a confidential prospecting conversation with your trustees. You’ll turn up a range of prospective donors.

Next, you’ll need to figure out the giving patterns and history for each prospect. Once you’ve done your homework, you will have to decide who will be the best asker. Remember your AAA system? Now is the time for the asker to shine.

Finally, let’s summarize our 7 ways to make it to your big and hefty fundraising goal in 2015:

1. Choose an Effective Fundraising System
2. Recruit Well-Connected Volunteers
3. Hone Your Story
4. Find Your “Blue Ocean” Niches
5. Create Predictable Lead Generation
6. Pick Up the Phone: Make Calls to Target Foundations
7. Focus on Individual Major Donors and Community Influencers

Now it’s your turn. What fundraising systems have worked for you? Do you have any other ideas on reaching your fundraising goals? If so, share them with me and my followers in the comment section below.


Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, fundraiser, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. 

Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog ( for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.

Love Is An Action: 3 Steps to Show Your Love to Your Non-Profit Partners


before_sunset_movie_image_ethan_hawke_julie_deply_02He looks in her eyes. She smiles. Nothing is outwardly amiss, but her world has suddenly changed. Her heart feels the power of this new connection. 

And then there are words. Simple words of appreciation, admiration and care. This glance and these words create myriad touch points and open up new ways for mutual trust and sharing. 

Can this chemistry work in other relationships? 

How can we use the human capacity to love to build trust with our volunteers, donors or non-profit partners? How can we inspire them to move mountains?

In her now viral NYT article, To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This, Mandy Catron described the famous experiment created by the psychologist Arthur Aron who successfully applied a simple set of 36 questions and made two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. 

Hard to believe? Well, Catron actually followed his advice and the same thing happened to her.

In the experiment, two strangers who have never met each other are seated face to face and respond to a series of personal questions, ranging from simple to more intimate. (They never cross the line, though.) 

Just questions. 

According to Dr. Aron’s research, these questions trigger “self-expansion” and allow access into our securely guarded world.

Is this all, you wonder? 

Well, there’s one more trick that seals the connection: eye contact. After answering these questions, the couple needs to stare silently into each other’s eyes. 

How long?

Just four minutes. That’s right, just four minutes. In this invisible emotional exchange, we drop our usual masks and become vulnerable.

For Cotren, the experiment helped her realize that “love is an action.” As she notes from her own falling-in-love experience, “it’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.”

And why don’t we? Why don’t we ask more thoughtful questions of each other? Why don’t we show appreciation or express our gratitude for what others give us so generously?

The point is that Dr. Aron’s principles may also be applied in our daily interactions with our customers, volunteers, and donors. Imagine how much more meaningful your conversations with your partners will be.

To create strong and lasting connections with our counterparts, we just need to follow three simple steps:

  1. Listen to understand, and not to hear what you want to hear. Every word has deep meaning. Find the key to your listener’s heart in silence.

  2. Appreciate your counterpart as a unique human being who brings special meaning to the world around us and to your life.

  3. Be grateful for this opportunity to discover new qualities and talents in this person. Your life is enriched by this connection.

The next time you meet with your non-profit partner, think about the ways that you could compliment his or her work. Remember, no one is obliged to do anything for your organization. Your desire to better understand your counterparts will pay back richly, but only if you listen to understand.

Appreciate your donors not only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Why not call them on Valentine’s Day and tell them how much their love for your organization matters? On any day, surprise them with an unexpected call, stop by and visit them if you are in the neighborhood. Show your appreciation for them. That will go a long way.

Casually meet with your volunteers. Ask about their challenges, and listen. What is happening in their busy lives? How can YOU help them? Be gracious by giving yourself to them. Now that makes for a powerful bond.

And what about that eye-to-eye contact, you ask?

 My advice is to keep it slightly less than 4 minutes. Why?

Well, you never know what might happen next…


Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, fundraiser, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. 

Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog ( for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.

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