GuideStar Blog

Andy Robinson

Andy Robinson is a trainer and consultant based in Vermont. Learn more at www.andyrobinsononline.com and www.trainyourboard.com. A brand-new video series, focused on effective board training, is available at www.boardtrainingvideos.com.

Recent Posts by Andy Robinson:

Succession Planning: Leading by Sharing Power

In 1986, I killed my first nonprofit organization.

That wasn’t my plan. In fact, there wasn’t any plan.


What Are “Major Gifts”—and Where Do I Find Them?

When talking with potential clients, I often ask the following questions: “What do you consider a major gift? How many donors contribute at that level?”

The phrase “major gift” perplexes some people. If needed, I might rephrase as follows:

  • What do you consider a big gift from an individual donor?

  • If you skimmed off the top 10 percent of your donors, based on the size of their contributions, what amounts are they giving?

  • When you open the mail (or review your list of online donations), what size gift inspires you to do your happy dance?


Work Wonders by Redefining the Word “Fundraising” for Your Board

Novices equate the word “fundraising” with “the ask”—the moment when the gift is requested in person, at an event, online, through the mail, or by phone.

Taken holistically, as I make clear in my book What Every Board Member Needs to Know, Do, and Avoid, fundraising is really a cycle of activities that includes identifying prospective donors, educating and cultivating them, asking for their support, recognizing their contribution, and deepening their commitment by engaging them in the organization’s mission.

Given this framework, we need to redefine the word “fundraising.”


Your Group Isn’t Unique—and That’s a Good Thing

From time to time, my phone rings. A nonprofit staff or board member begins to talk.

“We’re in a unique situation,” this person says.

Silently, I roll my eyes.

Or maybe, “We have a unique problem.”

Actually, you don’t.


The Three Most Powerful Words in Fundraising

What gets in the way of you and your board raising more money?

For a fundraising trainer like me, this is a key question. Any sort of fundraising education must address the barriers that make it difficult for people to participate.

This list of common barriers won’t surprise you. Perhaps you’ve experienced them yourself.


The Unspoken Truth about Boards and Fundraising

Does everyone on your board raise money?

If the answer is “No!”—perhaps the question makes you laugh or groan or grind your teeth—you’re not alone.

How do I know? By far, the most popular service I offer is board fundraising training. Because so many boards struggle to raise money, demand is endless. (Note to consultants: if you want to build your business, improve your skills as a fundraising trainer.)


The Crucial Role of Silence When Asking for a Gift

In my book, How to Raise $500 to $5000 from Almost Anyone, I offer a multitude of fundraising how-tos, from identifying prospects to setting a goal to offering meaningful thank-yous. But perhaps the most difficult aspect of soliciting a donor is what I want to focus on here.

By now, we all know the importance of asking a donor for a specific amount—“I’m hoping you’ll be able to join us with a gift of $500.” That’s challenging enough for most of us, but here’s something even harder: asking for a contribution and then remaining silent.


Fundraising Therapy, Part 2—It’s Not About You

If you’re a fundraiser, it’s often helpful to think like a donor.

When leading workshops, I encourage people to flip this mental switch. “How many of you have ever given away money to anybody for any reason at all?” Of course, all the hands go up.

Then I ask people to pair off and talk about why they give. These small groups generate a long list of reasons; here’s one of the most popular. Giving feels good.

I test this with the participants. “How many of you have ever made a charitable gift and felt good about it?” Again, everyone raises their hands.

This leads to another challenging question: Why are we so uncomfortable asking people to do something that makes them feel good when they do it?


Five Options for Nonprofit Board Orientation

Joining a board without a proper welcome and relevant education is like landing in a foreign country without a map or any knowledge of the local language and customs.


My Big Fundraising Failure—and What You Can Learn from It

In October, I rolled out a fundraising appeal for our new Training, Facilitation, and Consulting Certificate Program with Marlboro College.