Gail Perry

Recent Posts by Gail Perry:

How to Get Your Whole Organization Behind Major Gift Fundraising

What would be possible if your whole organization supported a full-scale major gift fundraising program?

  • You’d be able to raise tons of money to fund important projects and urgent expenses at your organization.
  • You’d have a cadre of loyal, happy engaged major donors.
  • Your board members would actually participate and open doors.

Strengthen Your Fundraising Appeal with the “MPI” Formula

Reprinted from the Fired-Up Fundraising Blog

How Fundraising Is Turning into "Fund Marketing"


Reprinted from the Fired-Up Fundraising Blog

Are you using the new marketing and communications tools to support your fundraising?

There's now an amazing array of techniques, formats, and strategies out there for us.

New and Innovative Tools

We have more ways than ever to tell our story, connect with our donors, keep them engaged with our cause, and ask for money!

Not only that, but we have hard data about what types of communications our donors respond to.

We know what makes a potential donor open an envelope or not. What makes her read an e-mail newsletter, or not. Or want to give again, or not.

We know exactly:

  • What donors react to on Web pages.
  • How to turn a newsletter from one that makes $1,400 into one that makes $42,000.
  • What types of images and pictures work best.
  • How to design and lay out a direct mail appeal for max impact.
  • What fonts work best.
  • How to shape a call to action.

We know a lot more about messaging too these days. We know:

  • How to start off a direct mail appeal letter.
  • What to say on our website donation page, and what not to say.
  • How to frame an appeal for maximum impact on a donor.

We know that "real words" are more engaging than "jargon." Why say "impact our programs" when you can say "help children learn to read?"

What do all these strategies and tactics have in common?

These strategies merge the "fundraising" function and the "marketing/communications" function.

Every day, fundraisers worry about which message to choose; how to shape the message, what words to use, how many words to use, which words and phrases to avoid.

All of this could be included in a communications function called "copywriting."

So, my friend, if you want to be successful as a fundraiser, you need to also have a working knowledge of messaging, copywriting, good design, and layout. You might even need a smattering knowledge of photography and videography.

You could say that these skills fall into the communications and marketing arena.

So if you want to be successful at fundraising, you gotta master some marketing skills.

There's Plenty of BAD Marketing!

Last week when I asserted that marketing and branding can kill fundraising, some of my smart nonprofit communications friends took issue.

Let me make myself clear: BAD marketing and RIGID branding can subvert fundraising.

What do bad marketing and rigid branding look like?

Communications that:

  • Are organization focused, not donor focused (staff profiles for example)
  • Are beautifully designed but difficult to read
  • Too wordy
  • Promote board members or the CEO instead of donors and your work
  • Talk about the gala instead of the kids we've helped this year
  • Full of statistics and data and short on pictures
  • Too formal and lofty
  • Use jargon like "programs," "services," and "underserved"
  • Are all about the branding, the look and the right colors ... and thereby convey nothing
  • Are completely missing the all-important "Call to Action"

Let's not waste our time and energy with bad marketing.

If you're fortunate enough to have a marketing and/or communications staff with skilled professionals, their expertise can often help you.

One nonprofit marketing professional I know says that so often, fundraisers "ruin" letters and other copy by inserting jargon, adding "flowery," unnecessary words, or making changes upon changes. Don't be one of those folks, OK?

But all fundraisers need to learn these skills!

Here's How to Learn to Do Fund Marketing Correctly

Follow the smartest nonprofit communications people out there.

There are plenty of experts out there who have mastered fund marketing. You should follow them all AND study their stuff. Take their classes too!

Take the time to learn how to shape and deliver a message well.

Ask if your marketing and communications colleagues follow any of the experts listed above. That's a great way to open a line of communication.

See if you can focus your organization's full resources and skill sets to create the most toward powerful coordinated message around WHY our organization's work is important.

I'll guarantee that you'll raise a lot more money.

The preceding is a guest post by Gail Perry, an international fundraising consultant, coach, speaker, blogger, and thought leader. You can find her at her popular Fired-Up Fundraising blog. Her Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 25 years as a nonprofit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts and support. Her book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, has been called the "gold standard guide" to building successful fundraising boards.

Top 10 Major Donor Fundraising Trends for 2014-2015

Reprinted from the Fired-Up Fundraising Blog

What You Need to Know about Giving USA 2014

Reprinted from the Fired-Up Fundraising Blog

Stuck with Impossible Goals? Here's Help!

Reprinted from Fired-Up Fundraising

It happens all the time.

Smart nonprofit staffers come to me and share their secret: the goals they are assigned to accomplish are completely unrealistic.

They are in a situation where their operational and performance goals are more than anyone can possibly accomplish. Some of the goals they have been given are not even carefully vetted or thought out.

Extra tasks to do are simply dumped on staff without any priority or thought.

These staffers are in serious "overwhelm." Work is a drudge. And life is no fun either.

Have you ever been in this situation? It's not pretty.

I can't imagine anything more awful than being stuck with goals that are impossible to achieve.

A Happy Story of a Nonprofit That Got Organized

Here's a happy story of how smart planning is getting everyone on the same page, protecting the staff, and even sharpening up expectations of the board.

My friend Dan Bruer, CEO of the Frankie Lemmon School (for children with developmental disabilities, here in Raleigh, N.C.) and his board are the heroes of this story.

He and his board have just created an ambitious new strategic plan.

Now that the strategic plan is completed, he and the board are at it again—they're crafting a smart business plan to achieve the strategic goals.

I love this approach.

It's not often that the board is involved in helping to think though exactly HOW to implement the new goals.

The beauty of involving them is that they'll all be on the same page if there are any new investments in staff or programs. Yay!

"Having the board thinking through HOW we would reach these new goals is absolutely essential," Dan said.

"It never put the staff in the place of defending themselves or staff salaries to the board.

"Because it's the board members themselves who are helping us decide how much staffing we'll need to reach these new, aggressive goals."

Here's a blow by blow of what happened:

1.The board and leadership developed a lofty new strategic plan.

Then they handed it to the staff.

So far, so good.

Our CEO Dan started wondering—"How do I implement this with my current staff and funding strategies? Is this realistic?"

He knew that the school was not staffed up to do all this.


So what did he do?

2. Dan asked for more help from his board.

He went back to his board and said, "I need your business acumen. Help me develop a business model and smart staffing structure that will help us reach these wonderful goals."


3. Together they looked carefully at the staffing—what are they focusing on all day?

Now Dan and the board are working together to line up staff work responsibilities with the "strategic priorities" that the board had identified.

And everything will be tied right back to the overall strategic plan—its objectives and goals.

So every staffer's work will be based on one of the objectives of the new strategic plan.

And they are making sure that they are building in accountability—so all the staff will clearly know what to focus on and what they will be evaluated for. YES!

What's more—any new staff hired will be people to focus on the strategic priorities.


Now, here's where it gets interesting:

4. The board members decided what kind of board they needed in order to execute the strategic plan.

The board decided on a profile for new board members ... and they are focusing on philanthropy.

The new profile was clear: largest donors; broadest networks; committed to advancing the mission.

As Dan says, "We wanted to grow. So we decided to speak the truth about what our goal is for the board."

Because the plan was for a big expansion of programming and services, they knew it would take money. So they were all OK with saying "It IS about the money."

Now this really is a dream come true for many nonprofits.

5. The board members decided to hold themselves accountable.

So they created a board scorecard with only 5 points, that tracked the key activities they needed board members to do.

Dan says that the board members are now all over those items on the scorecard—and are making sure they are getting them done.

It's the old cliché for both board and staff—what gets reported—gets done!

Check, check, and check again!

What made all this work?

  1. First Dan had the guts to go to his board and ask for help.
  2. He had business folks on the board who could take an idea and help him make it into a hard plan.
  3. The board members were willing to hold themselves accountable.
  4. They took a firm business-like approach to the planning process—one that made everybody a winner!

Bottom Line

Your plan can protect you. If you are confronted with impossible tasks, pull out the plan and say:

"Here's our plan that we have all agreed upon. I can do this OR this but I can't do BOTH this and this. Can you please help me set my priorities?"

Good luck, and may the smart planning forces go with you!

Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, Fired-Up Fundraising
© 2014, Fired-Up Fundraising. Reprinted with permission.

Gail Perry, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, trend spotter, speaker, trainer, and thought leader. Her Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 25 years as a nonprofit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts and support. She is the author of the Fired-Up Fundraising blog and newsletter. Her book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, has been called the "gold standard guide to building successful fundraising boards."

Ten Reasons (Besides Money) That You Should Plan a Capital Campaign Now!

Do you have big dreams for your organization but find yourself limited to taking tiny steps forward? Wouldn't you love to move forward boldly and make an even bigger—maybe even a huge—difference in the world? Are you ready to be inspired and excited by big thoughts and plans?

Yes? Wonderful! It's time for you to plan a capital campaign.

Your organization's potential is greater than you think it is, and a capital campaign can help springboard you to the next level.

Here are the 10 things that will happen once you commit to a capital campaign:

  1. Your board members will become more engaged. In fact, you're likely to find that your big thinking and commitment to making a transformational difference in your community attracts new, more effective board members.
  2. Your board members will increase their giving. The campaign will provide a bigger context for their gifts and an effective structure for asking them for larger gifts.
  3. You'll strengthen your board. In addition to attracting more effective board members, nothing does a better job of creating effective working relationships than facing a challenge together successfully.
  4. Board members will want to learn more about asking for gifts. Capital campaigns are high-stakes, public affairs that motivate board members to play a more active fundraising role.
  5. Your community will become more visible. Campaigns provide many opportunities for publicity and communication, and new ideas, new programs, and big gifts are natural fodder for the press.
  6. You'll be able to invest in your development program. Your campaign budget will cover additional fundraising staff, better communications, upgraded donor software, donor recognition, consultants. ... And better yet, you'll keep benefiting from many of these upgrades when the campaign is over.
  7. You'll boost your annual fund returns. Contrary to common belief, capital campaigns lead to higher levels of annual fund giving. Why? Because donors become more engaged and excited during the campaign, and thus they're willing to write larger checks.
  8. Your volunteers will become motivated to step up to the fundraising table. The excitement and high stakes of a big campaign will motivate your volunteers to get serious about fundraising and start asking people for gifts through face-to-face solicitation.
  9. You'll engage community leaders in your organization's mission. Your campaign planning committee is the perfect vehicle for inviting community leaders and local philanthropists to become more involved in your organization.
  10. Your campaign's success will make everyone in your organization feel great! Capital campaigns provide many opportunities for celebrating success. And, of course, nothing breeds succeeds like success.

There you are—10 great reasons to do a capital campaign, and we haven't even mentioned the fact that you'll raise more money and be able to make a much bigger difference in the world!

Given all of the great reasons to do a capital campaign, why don't you plant the seed for a capital campaign this fall?

Encourage your board to think about what your organization could do if you raised 10 times your annual fund over the next three years. That kind of thinking will inspire them, inspire you, and make your organization stronger, more vibrant, and more effective. Everyone wins!

Andrea Kihlstedt and Gail Perry, Capital Campaign Magic
© 2013, Capital Campaign Magic

Fundraising consultants Gail Perry and Andrea Kihlstedt are the founders of Capital Campaign Magic, which applies their combined 60 years' experience to the task of helping organizations prepare for successful capital campaigns. 

Want to Know What Your Major Donor Is Thinking? Try This Question!

Excerpted from the Fired-Up Fundraising Blog

How a Planning Committee Can Catapult Your Capital Campaign Forward

Many capital campaigns are won or lost based on their volunteer leadership. If you have the right people heading up your campaign, you are well on your way to success.

Three All-Important Tricks of Capital Campaign Success

Engage your major donors when a campaign is just a gleam in your eye.