Five Trends for Raising Money Right Now

by Marcy Heim on April 28, 2017

5 Trends for Raising Money HeaderRecently, I dug in and researched trends for success in giving and the role our thinking has on our giving results noted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Charity Navigator, consultant colleagues, Executive Directors, key major donors, my clients, and many of you.

Here are my FIVE TRENDS – ideas that successful non-profits are embracing RIGHT NOW– complete with a MINDSET TAKE AWAY to think about that leads to an ACTION to take! WoHoo!

Are you a “unique snowflake” with such unique struggles that these trends don’t relate to you? I encourage you to shed your winter victim coats and embrace these trends. They apply to all – regardless of the size or your staff, your mission, your current fundraising success, your board members or whatever else you put on your excuse list.  

Ok here we go! Marcy’s FIVE Trends to Sustain and Increase Giving, Spring 2017…


In this emotionally chaotic time where too many folks spend precious time emotionally thinking, posting and hashing over what “might” happen, successful non-profits are sharpening their focus and getting crystal clear on what they do, who they serve, and the impact an investment in their mission has for the donor.

Vibrant options of giving (operational as well as program options) that directly connect givers to results will be funded.

And what is your BIG DREAM?  Where are you going long-term?  Big donors want big visions well beyond this coming year’s giving goals and operations fund deficit.

Mindset Takeaway

A confused donor doesn’t give, a confused fundraiser/ED doesn’t ask or lead, a confused board member/volunteer doesn’t help. Get clear.


Set aside time for thinking.  Set aside time for board and staff planning sessions. 

One of my VIP clients dedicated a 9 am – 2 pm session last week for planning (3 hours longer than a usual board meeting). This session was led by an expert facilitator and PUT ASIDE all the busyness of the typical board meeting. One Board member said, “This should be an activity we do regularly!” Have faith in what can happen with even a simple “SWOT” (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) if you MAKE SPACE for conversation!


Fear of spending money to get the people, equipment, consulting, etc. separates those non-profits that are in perpetual “struggle” from those that grow and meet more mission goals.  I’d rather have 40% of $2 Million going to Infrastructure than 10% of $100,000.  That’s $1.2 Million doing good vs $90,000.  Yes, you have $800,000 going to create that $1.2 Million. That means you are paying enough staff a decent salary, giving them a budget for mailings, etc. and have equipment that works well and frees their time to build the relationships that generate impact.   Boards that are afraid to invest are dooming an organization to struggle and fail under the banner of “we spend as little as possible on operations.” Donors that invest this way are part of the problem.

There is a war for talent and pressure to boost non-profit salaries. While staff members are passionate for the mission, they are also putting a higher value on their time and life balance. The contributed printer that doesn’t do the job is no gift if it means staff stand there and hand-feed it. I see places where poor equipment has been there so long the staff doesn’t even react anymore.  Adequate administrative support is no longer optional.  The best development professionals MUST be supported by quality staff and then taught to delegate.

Mindset Takeaway

Stop talking about cost/dollar raised. 


Create vibrant options for giving from the Operation fund and learn how to talk about them as a key part of providing impact.


trend 3ANY size of shop can inspire major gifts.  Any size shop can improve on major gift relationship-building right now.  Just like a New Year’s resolution to diet, did you long ago abandon your major giving plans? You need to create small changes that form new habits over time for success.

Put your major gifts program on a health plan. Dedicate 5 hours each week to major gift relationship-building. Put it on your calendar! Establish and enforce metrics on personal visits to get staff out of the office.  Invest in staff training (like my MORE Major Gifts Bootcamp) to give them confidence in what to do. Revisit time-sucking events or anything else that takes away from major gift work time.  Focus on numbers around appreciation and donor retention and get everyone involved in a culture of generosity that inspires your Board to be ambassadors and investors. One of my VIP coaching clients has set aside two 3-hour blocks of time away from distraction to focus on major gifts with great results!

Mindset Takeaway

Invest in major giving relationship building right now! TODAY! Begin!


Commit 5 hours per week and 5 major donor prospects NOW and make monthly touches with these folks. Are your RAPS getting buried under events and annual meetings?  Commit NOW to major gift work, or you will not feel ready to speak that major gift ask later this year. 


Your givers are communicating with each other through social platforms.  And they trust their own friends more that your newsletters and appeals, so you need to be repurposing your stories on media where your peeps hang out most.

But remember, direct mail still accounts for 60-80% of revenue. So pick 1 to 3 platforms and create a simply, consistent presence.  DO take time to make everything  – website, ezine, etc – mobile-friendly.

Mindset Takeaway

Enhance a solid direct mail/newsletter program with other media – don’t replace it.


Listen to suggestions but do not feel compelled to implement every new platform someone mentions. Resist splatter from doing too much poorly. Constantly monitor the real time these “easy” tools take. Get a good year-end plan in place early and segment special tweaks to evaluate new ideas.


trend 5Work now for funding balance. If you have been relying on one source of funding (say, a government grant or program) too heavily, now is the time to deal with it (vs whining about it) and broaden your giving base.  80% of all giving comes from individuals.

Tell your STORY, not your opinions, your excuses, or your funding fears.  Your mission story should be filled with emotion – why what you do is important.

Respect everyone – treat everyone like a major donor – donors want to invest in causes that reflect THEIR values, not yours.  You can agree on the importance of your mission without agreeing on politics or other charged current events. Choose your words carefully.  Words are power.

Mindset Takeaway

Drop being a victim. Successful people want to believe in you and your ability to carry out your mission, not feel sorry for you and your funding changes. They may well have empathy for the people your mission serves – that’s different.


Take responsibility for your funding balance and engage your donors to help you find solutions. Ask for, and respect their advice.  Focus on the good you do. 

The bottom line?

As old as time – if you believe you can, you can.  If you believe you can’t you are right, too.

Choose dynamic results!

Invest in Joy!

Marcy sign


Blog Header - Do you know where you’re going with your givers?

Creating successful major giving relationships with your givers is like taking a trip….and it’s an inspiring journey as well!

AFP San Antonio1. What’s your destination?

Before you can create a map, you need to know where you are going! FIRST step! What is your giver (or group of mid-level givers) most passionate about? Based on what you already know from past giving and interactions – set a giving goal that helps THEM accomplish THEIR GOAL. (Not YOUR needs list – who wants to be needy anyway?)  Or, take your best guess and explore the destination with your giver in the first few calls.

 2. What are your route choices?

There’s the highway (direct) and the side roads (generally a more relaxed pace) and all sorts of combinations depending on what we want to experience along the way.

 3. Who should come along?

Who should drive?Do you want to do all the driving yourself? Share it? Who and Why? A Prospect Relationship Manager plans the trip AND SEES THAT IT HAPPENS, but may or may not do all the driving.  Your contact screens keep everyone who needs to know in the loop, but not necessarily in the action.  (They have their own trips to plan!)

4. Who might you meet up with along the way?

Sure, you can explain everything, but is that the most fun? A board member, student, financial expert, camper, other donor, alum, clergy or others will add to the trip experience in a special way. Take the time to set up the stop and perhaps a specific result. These smaller gifts grow into the major investment. What other stops ADD and BUILD to the experience at the final destination?

5.  What do you need to bring on the trip?

Bottled water. OK.  Are there favorite snacks, books, magazines or games that make the trip especially fun and rewarding?  What lets your travel partner CLEARLY KNOW you deeply APPRECIATE them coming along with you?

6.  Do you need to make any reservations ahead?

Will folks be there for sure when you are passing through? Better check now and hold some tentative time. Do you have events you know your giver would enjoy attending? Better get on the calendar now.  Who (board, other staff, other donor) can drop a note or call saying, “Join me” to reinforce the date?

7. How do you check your progress?

Driving so many hours each day, getting to the next hotel stop….how is it going on this trip? Do you need more time for the stops along the way? Is the pace too slow or too fast for your giver?  What pace is comfortable for your giver yet assures you get there? (Not just chit chat and never ask.) Do they have other stops they would like to make or people they would like to meet that were not planned?  (We might call these “objections”, but given this scenario, doesn’t it seem like a silly word to use?)

8. What if you encounter detours?

A closed attraction, a torn up road, a new interest, delayed matching funds,  a new grandchild, a divorce, market turbulence, their work demands, different giving interest sparked, health hiccups, leadership changes…. Travel can be challenging.  Just reroute, reschedule – no drama. Just get back on track.

9. Ok, you are there! What makes this a great stop?

By taking this journey with you, your donor takes her success and sees this destination of significance where she can bask in the fulfillment of composing a good world.  WOW!

10. Do you want to go back there for another visit?

Or does another location look interesting now? I guess that depends on what happens AFTER the visit.  Do I ensure my giver continually sees photos and stories of our successful trip?  Does he hear how the place is continuing to delight other visitors?   Is the place changing, growing, improving, reinforcing, creating…..because of her visit? Then, of course, she will want to go back!  Or maybe instead, she is sparked at this stop by another destination…. Let’s get out the map!

Your trip is your Relationship Action Plan.  You see where you are going and reverse engineer AHEAD the places, people, experiences, and information that will get you to your destination (your major gift ask) and ready to experience it (say yes).

Metrics ensure you have MANY PEOPLE going on these trips. That means shutting off your phones and managing email (your two biggest time wasters and drama distractions).  It means providing clear, step-by-step directions and delegating as much as possible so you can focus on these journeys with your top donors.If your goal is to have the money required to BEST finance your programs, infrastructure, projects, and people, get out the map, buckle up and hit the road!  Expect some flat tires and know there’s no one to blame for them, just change them.  But DO take responsibility so you don’t run out of gas or blow up the engine because you failed to change the oil.  Let me hear you….


Yes, you do. Make yours GREAT – it is always your choice.

Honored to travel these roads with you.

Happy Travels!

Invest in Joy!

 Marcy Signature.jpg


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