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Follow-up to Crucial Year-End Giving Strategies for Your Nonprofit Appeal Webinar

Below is a follow-up by Mazarine Treyz to a handful of questions submitted by participants during the November 5, 2013 webinar “Crucial Year-End Giving Strategies for Your Nonprofit Appeal," and a cross-post of our Tumblr post here. To view the presentation or listen to the recording of the webinar, please click here.

Connect First—Your Marketing Magic Bullet

Five Year-End Considerations for Nonprofits


Performance Insights: Donors Want Easy Access to Nonprofit Results


What do you give for?


Asking Far and Wide: Interview with Fundraiser Andy Robinson

Andy Robinson, author of How to Raise $500 to $5000 From Almost Anyone, recently spoke with his publisher about major gifts fundraising. GuideStar has published an excerpt from the book, and we're pleased to be able to share Mr. Robinson's additional thoughts with you.

You started in fundraising as a door-to-door canvasser. In what ways did that serve you later?

Canvassing is fundraising boot camp—most people don't last more than a day or two. Because we were expected to recruit about one donor for every eight doors we knocked on, the first lesson was to not internalize rejection. Indeed, I was often grateful for the person who said no quickly and clearly—because that moved me to the next door and the next prospect. To quote my friend and colleague Kim Klein, "Fundraising is a volume business." There's no better proof than canvassing.

The one quality a fundraiser needs the most is ...?

Bravery—though it would be hard to argue with persistence. If you don't ask, you don't receive.

Faith-based organizations attract more money than any groups. What can schools, museums, and civic organizations learn from them?

First, don't make assumptions about who has money and who doesn't—ask everyone, ask often. Second, engage your constituents as deeply and as regularly as you can. I often ask my secular clients, "Do you know your people as well as a church knows theirs?" The answer is usually no.

Tell us the top two or three motivators for why people give.

They were asked. They were asked by somebody they know. It's a way to participate—to belong—without investing time, which is even harder to get than money. Having said that, I'd be careful about generalizing. As a colleague likes to say, "If you know one donor, you know one donor."

In your book, you cite a woman who enrolled in your workshop because she was "Trying to get over myself." Tell us what she meant.

As solicitors, how we feel is secondary. The more important question is, "How does the donor feel?" People generally feel good about giving. So to paraphrase, the woman at the workshop was saying, "I want my ego out of the way so I can be of service to my organization." For a fundraiser, that's the sweet spot.

Friendship and fundraising: is that a volatile mix?

Of course—but so is friendship and a dozen other things, including politics, social class, sports teams, religion, whether your friends approve of your spouse, and so on. None of these things prevents us from making or keeping friends.

In my experience, solicitors tend to fall into two camps: people who prefer to ask people they know, and those who prefer to ask strangers. The first group tends to have greater success.

If you're uncomfortable asking your friends, try this: "Our organization is doing great work, which is why I support it. Giving a gift is one way you can participate. If you choose not to give—for any reason—that's OK. You and I will remain friends regardless. But I hope you can help."

You say that fundraising boils down to two jobs—the asker who asks for the gift, and the decider who says, "Yes, I'll give," or "No, I'll pass." You stress how it's important not to confuse these two jobs. Clarify that if you will.

We make assumptions about the people around us: "She can't contribute, she's broke. He won't donate, he has other priorities." Consequently, we don't ask a lot of people. We take a decision that should be theirs—to give or not to give—and make it for them, based on these assumptions. Remember, the number one reason that people give is because someone asked. By NOT asking them, we disempower them.

One of fundraising's conventional beliefs is that economic peers have to be involved in the solicitation. You disagree, don't you?

The peer-to-peer concept shouldn't be based on wealth, but rather how strongly you both support the mission. As an asker, you can talk about your own gift in this way: "Our organization is among the top three I support each year. I hope you'll consider making it one of your top three." Using this model, it's less about the money and more about the level of commitment.

Toward the end of your book you say this: "Ask for the gift and wait with your mouth shut. If you take nothing else from this book, please remember to ask and then be quiet." Elaborate a bit.

When you ask and be quiet—"We were hoping you would consider a gift of $10,000. That would be so significant for us"—you have all the power you'll have in that conversation. As soon as you start apologizing and backpedaling—"I know this is a bad time, any amount would be great, we're so sorry to impose on you"—you end up in a submissive position. Effective solicitors are proud of their organizations and feel honored to be asking for support. When you ask and wait—in silence—you reinforce that message.

You hear a lot these days about retaining donors and how it's much more cost-effective to nurture a long-standing relationship than continually uncover new donors. Give us your best advice for building donor loyalty.

There's a famous fundraising saying: "If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice." Engage your donors, as appropriate, in giving you feedback on both your programs and how well you treat your supporters.

It seems more and more organizations are turning to staff to solicit gifts rather than volunteers. What are your feelings about this?

Mixed. Recently, I've been leading a workshop called "Give Up on Your Board," which emphasizes using all staff to help with fundraising. You can adjust employees' job descriptions, supervise them, mandate appropriate training, and even reward them for successful fundraising campaigns with all-staff bonuses, professional development funds, and paid days off.

On the other hand, board and volunteer fundraising training continues to be the largest component of my practice. The demand is endless. Because I have experienced boards and other volunteers who embrace fundraising and do it well, I haven't totally given up. At least not yet.

© 2013, Emerson & Church Publishers.

Andy Robinson, also the author of Great Boards for Small Groups and The Board Member's Easier Than You Think Guide to Nonprofit Finances (with Nancy Wasserman), has been raising money for social change since 1980. As a trainer and consultant, he has assisted nonprofits in 40 states and Canada, leading workshops on fundraising, grantseeking, board development, strategic planning, marketing, leadership development, and earned income strategies.

“BRIDGE” to Somewhere: Progress to Date

Technical development of the first Basic Registry of Identified Global Entities (BRIDGE) release is currently about a half-way to completion. If you have been following the project you will know that BRIDGE aims to revolutionize data interoperability in the global social sector by uniquely identifying all the world’s NGOs in one database. Read on to find out what’s new.

Increasing Donations With P2P Fundraising


I cried for the donor | Creating your organization’s culture of philanthropy

Disclaimer: The following is a true story and is intended for mature audiences only. This writing contains strong language and graphic scenes of lack of regard for donor rights. Those who are faint of heart should refrain from reading further. You have been warned.

Q&A: What are the current IRS gift acknowledgement guidelines?

Giving season is upon us, so this seems like a good time to review these guidelines. Organizations that do not follow these guidelines can be fined $10 per donation, up to $5,000 per fundraising event or mailing. In any case, it shows lousy business sense not to acknowledge gifts (think of it as a thank you note); further, donors generally cannot deduct gifts of $250 or more on their tax returns unless they receive an acknowledgement from the organization.

A Crisis of Confidence in our Nonprofits

In last month’s blog post, Is Your Nonprofit Prepared for a Crisis?, I wrote about the need for organizations to develop a crisis plan. I wrote the article in response to the September shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., an event caused by external factors.

How to Attract Volunteers from Abroad and Develop Your Organization

Michael, 25, flew from Germany to the U.S. this summer to put his accounting background to good use at a non-profit focused on homelessness and housing in New York City.

Nonprofits: The Case for Integrating Email & Social

We love email. If you’re like most of the nonprofit organizations that we work with, your email list has been an important source of community, action and donations. It’s part of the heart and soul of your organization. In numbers: it’s still has the best ROI of any digital communications tool – almost a $40 return per $1 spent in 2012.

A Simple, Smart, and Easy Way to Raise More Money Next Year: 50 Asks in 50 Weeks

This year is almost over and, if you're like most fundraising professionals, you're starting to think about your year-end report to your executive director and board of directors.

Will you be able to tell them that your fundraising this year was as successful as it could have been? Or, as you review your fundraising results, are you disappointed in what you see?

If your answer is the second one, I'm pretty sure I know the cause—you didn't ask as often as you should have. Not because you lacked the will or desire, but because you allowed yourself to become overwhelmed with (admittedly) urgent—but ultimately less important—day-to-day tasks.

Believe it or not, it doesn't have to be like this. Over the last few years I've developed a simple, easy-to-follow method that will get you on track to raise much more money. The best part of this system is that anyone, even someone with your crazy-busy schedule, can use it!

The plan is called "50 Asks in 50 Weeks." That's it—an ask almost every week.

Asking More Often = Raising More Money

I was recently at a seminar where the speaker compared fundraising to baseball. He reminded us that, in baseball, players who make a hit just once every three times at bat end up in the Hall of Fame. In other words, Hall of Famers actually fail two-thirds of the time they're at bat! Players don't put off going to bat until they're sure they'll get a hit, however—if they did that, no one would ever take a swing!

Fundraisers, on the other hand, are frequently afraid to ask unless they're sure the answer will be "Yes," and the result is pretty much the same as it would be for a baseball player who refused to bat unless he felt sure of getting a hit. To put it another way—the one absolute certainty you face as a fundraiser is that if you don't ask, you won't get the gift.

With my 50 Asks in 50 Weeks planning tool, though, you'll probably find yourself "at bat" more often than ever before—and the more you ask, the more money your organization will receive. Of course, it's not just about quantity; it's about quality, too.

Here are the three simple steps you need to take to raise more money:

STEP 1: Get Ready

First, assess your current fundraising efforts—and the results of those efforts—and create a baseline. This step is about knowing where you are and where you have been, which will allow you to set effective goals for the coming year.

STEP 2: Get Set

Now it's time to create your plan. I've included a sample below. Print it out or re-create it on a whiteboard in your office, and then fill in the names of individuals, corporations, foundations, bulk mail campaigns, and other solicitations you already know you'll be doing next year.

  ASK 1 ASK 2 ASK 3 ASK 4

An important part of step 2 is identifying prospective donors who are ready or almost ready to be asked. Use your database to identify your best prospective donors by searching for those who have given large gifts or have given repeatedly over the recent past.

STEP 3: Go!

Step 3 is about implementation. How will you carry out your plan, and how will you stay on track in the face of all of the inevitable requests to do other urgent (but less important) tasks?

As part of my Major Gifts Challenge, I've written a post with two important tips to help you stay on task with your asking.

One of them involves eating a frog. (No, not literally!) Take a quick look at that post for details if you'd like, but it basically boils down to two important points: holding a monthly meeting to keep everyone involved on task and accountable, and combating procrastination.

The monthly meeting is a great way to keep your board and executive director apprised that you're up to something fantastic—and to enlist their help and support in respecting the time you've set aside to prepare for and make your 50 Ask goals. As for the frog, you'll have to check out the post to get the whole story.

This Is Your Year to Raise More Money!

No matter what your current year totals look like, don't worry—very soon you'll be a fundraising star and enable your organization to do more than ever!

Learn More!

Check out Amy Eisenstein's GuideStar webinar on this topic.


Amy Eisenstein, MPA, CFRE, Tri Point Fundraising
© 2013, Tri Point Fundraising

Amy Eisenstein, MPA, CFRE is a leading fundraising consultant, speaker, coach, and author of 50 Asks in 50 Weeks and Raising More with Less. Her talent for simplifying the fundraising process yields big results for her clients and readers.

Key Findings from the State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Survey

Excerpted from State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report

  • Over 80% of respondent organizations received awards in the first six months of 2013.
  • The number of award recipients during the first six months of 2013 increased by 21% compared to the fall 2012 survey.
  • In this survey, 31% of respondents reported receipt of larger awards than during the same period in the prior year.
  • Private foundations (28%) were the largest source of total grant funding, followed by federal grants (18%) and state grants (17%).
  • Of survey respondents, 42% stated that grants contributed more than 25% of their annual revenue.
  • Compared to the fall 2012 survey, the median award size decreased by 8%, to $46,000.
  • Funding from all levels of government decreased between 5% and 9% compared to last year, yet government at all levels increased as the source of the largest grant award.
  • The median award size of the largest grant for organizations with government funding was 400% larger than that of organizations with no government funding.
  • Organizations with small annual budgets reported that 69% received an award; over 90% of medium and large organizations received an award in the first six months of 2013.
  • The median largest award size for small organizations was $4,975; medium organizations had a median largest award of $30,000, and large organizations reported a median largest award of $133,500.
  • "Lack of time and/or staff" continues to be the greatest challenge to grantseeking among respondents.
  • Service area impacts grant funding; the median grant size for rural organizations was 27% less than suburban (cluster) organizations and 47% less than urban organizations.

Excerpted from The State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report. Excerpted with permission.

The State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 is the seventh semi-annual informal survey of nonprofits conducted by GrantStation and PhilanTech to help illustrate the current state of grantseeking in the U.S.

Note: The views expressed in this excerpt are those of the sponsoring organizations and may or may not represent GuideStar's opinions. GuideStar is committed to providing a range of topics and perspectives to our users. We make every effort to obtain articles from knowledgeable, trustworthy sources, but we make no warranties or representations with regard to content provided by persons outside GuideStar.

Celebrating the Accomplishments of Community Foundations for Positive Social Change

Yesterday we cross-posted a blog article from Greater Kansas City Community Foundation (GKCCF) celebrating and reflecting on the 10th anniversary of DonorEdge, originally created by GKCCF. As our CEO, Jacob Harold, stated, GuideStar is excited about continuing its investment and commitment to helping community foundations achieve their organizational strategies and unique potential of positive social change for their communities. Today’s blog post extends this conversation and presents highlights about the community foundation sector’s progress, challenges, and trending opportunities from a national perspective.

Kansas City’s Nonprofit Search Turns 10

Kansas City’s nonprofit search made its debut on the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation’s website on October 20, 2003. As we celebrate 10 years, we thought we’d look back at the history of the tool, previously known as DonorEdge.

The Power of Personalization

The significance of personalization is something nearly 94% of social marketers can agree on. But only a small sliver of businesses successfully take advantage of it, and vast amounts of data is left untapped. A whopping 40% of businesses pass up on creating a meaningful connection using segmentation and personalization.

How to Stop Being A Firefighter in Your Nonprofit

One person asked me recently, "As the single employee of a small nonprofit, how do I prioritize the daily issues of running a nonprofit before they become 'fires.'"

Make Your Holiday Cheer Work for Your Organization

Santa has his sleigh and reindeer, but you are going to have to come up with some more unique ideas to reach all the good little boys and girls (your audience) this holiday season. Time to plan out your strategy. Yes, strategy. It is not all about spreading holiday cheer. According to, December accounts for 33.3 percent of all donations. Here are several tips to reach your audience.