Activate Fundraising Successful Fundraising for Ambitious Non Profits Thu, 22 Sep 2016 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Secret to Making Donors Love You Thu, 10 Mar 2016 19:04:18 +0000 + Read More]]> donor retention

Do you know how many donors you’re currently losing each year?

Figure that number out and you might just realise how important it is to make your current donors love you.

The truth is that donor retention rates are appalling with an average of 70% of donors giving to a charity once and then never giving again.


That means that non-profits are only keeping an average of 30% of their donors. And that’s an average figure, which means some non-profits are doing far worse.


You might not think that it’s important to retain donors – especially if you’re hitting your fundraising target each year – but, as it costs more to recruit a donor than it does to keep them, you might be spending far more on your fundraising than you need to.

Put simply, donors are difficult and expensive to recruit. It’s much more cost effective to keep a current donor giving to your charity.

And that’s why charities need to balance the recruitment of new donors with keeping current donors happy.

The start of any relationship is usually the good part. It’s only over time when you start to take each other for granted and put in less effort that the cracks begin to show. The same is true of donor relationships.

Help your charity to get ahead of the fundraising game by following these 6 simple lessons.

(These lessons aren’t necessarily secrets, but with 7 donors in every 10 choosing not to renew their gifts, you would think they are).


Talk to Them

As any relationship counsellor worth their salt will tell you, the key to a good relationship is COMMUNICATION. That rule applies just as much to the relationships that you have with your donors as it does to your friends, family and spouse.  From the very start of the relationship with your donor make sure that you communicate with them well – and often. As soon as they’ve made their donation, clearly set out what they’re getting from you in terms of communications that you’ll send them; the type of information they’ll receive – and when; as well as what you will spend their money on.


Put Them First

We all like to feel as though we’re a priority in someone’s life. Make sure that your donors know how important THEY are – not just their money – by responding to their queries timeously.

Have a clear policy of responding to donor enquiries within a certain timeframe – 24 hours ideally, and no more than 48 hours – even if it’s just to say that you will get back to them fully as soon as you’ve found out the information they asked for. Tell them when that will be and get back to them by that date. Don’t leave your donor wondering when they’re going to hear from you after they’ve been in touch. They won’t feel particularly special. Would you?


Go the Extra Mile

Donors are asked to give to lots of different causes all the time. But guess what? They chose yours. The least you can do is make them feel valued by making a real effort in your communications with them.

Be creative. Sending out thank you packs with car stickers and pens are all well and good but they have been done to death. Personally, I’d rather not have more clutter in the house. Instead, you could send out a letter from one of your frontline staff – rather than the CEO or Director of Development. Or, rather than running the usual donor dinner or open day, why not invite them to look behind-the-scenes to make them really feel a part of what you do.

When I worked at a major city museum, one of the most popular events we ever did was a tour of one of the storage facilities where we kept a vast array of artifacts that there wasn’t room for in the museum itself. The tour was carefully planned out with a few expert curators available to talk through key exhibits (I’ve always found that donors would much rather speak to the people doing the work than the fundraising team). The donors loved the tour and we received thank you letters for weeks afterwards.

What can you do to make your donors really feel a part of what you do?


Keep in Touch

Far too many non-profits send out a thank you and then the next a donor hears from them is when their gift is due for renewal. And then the organisation wonders why the donor decided not to give again!

Have at least 3 contact points in between your donor receiving their initial thank you and the anniversary of their gift.

Thank yous should be sent within 48 hours. Updates should go out at least quarterly, and a card at Christmas or New Year can all help to keep donors informed about how their gift is helping and to continue to make them feel that they are making a difference.


Make Them Feel Part of Your Work

Telling donors that they are an important part of your organisation is one thing. Showing them is much more powerful. This could be a ‘brand’ for your regular giving programme that donors can identify themselves with – or a private Facebook group for donors where they can keep up to date with what you are doing.

However, it can also be as simple as the information that you choose to share with donors in your regular communications. Tell them what their money is being spent on. Explain how that’s made a difference. Showcase your future plans and share news stories with them – before anyone else gets to hear.


Ask Their Opinion

Nothing can turn a donor off more than if they think they’re are constantly being asked for money. But ask for their opinion and they start to feel more valued. Put that opinion into action and you’ve strengthened your relationship even more.

Ask donors for their opinion through an annual donor survey where they have the opportunity to tell you what they think of your communications; the work that you’re doing; what you’re spending their money on; how they’d like to be kept in touch with – and so on.

Of course, it won’t be possible to act on everyone’s suggestions, but be sure to send an update to all donors afterwards to tell them what the main feedback that you received was and how you’ll be acting on that over the next 12 months. Even if you don’t act on an individual’s suggestions, if they can see that you are making changes based on what the broader donor group has said, many donors will see this as positive.


Non-profits will always need to recruit new donors – people stop giving for a variety of reasons, not all of them related to dissatisfaction. However, retaining more of your donors each year will help you to achieve a greater return on investment on your fundraising costs. It also means you will have a well-informed group of loyal supporters that you can grow each year. And who doesn’t want that?


I’d love to hear some of your donor retention methods that have worked – so please share them in the comments below. Or ask any questions about keeping your donors happy and giving.


(If you’re not sure how to figure out your donor retention and attrition rates, check out this post on Bloomerang, which explains how to figure it out).


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Show don’t tell. Using images in fundraising Wed, 09 Mar 2016 08:29:05 +0000 + Read More]]> fundraising copywriting

A picture says a thousand words.

It’s a cliché but true. You can say far more in one image than you can in a few words.


And in a world where people are constantly being bombarded with information, getting your point across quickly is vital to improve your fundraising success.


How can you make your message stand out?


I recently heard Araceli Camargo (The Cube London and WeCreate NYC) speak. She suggested that one of the reasons for the multi-channel delivery of information is that, as a society, we have become more visual.

Humans have pretty much always been visual. After all, before the invention of the alphabet – and even modern language – there were cave drawings. The Ancient Egyptians had hieroglyphics, and it wasn’t until the advent of first ‘true’ alphabet by the Greeks in around 800BC when text started to overtake drawings.

Now, however, thanks to technology, society is shifting back towards the visual – and while it’s unlikely that we’ll go back to solely communicating through images like our cave dwelling ancestors, it’s worth noting that images are becoming increasingly popular, particularly online.

Videos and images get far more social media shares than text. A Facebook video is 12 times more likely to be shared than an average post, while photos get 53% more shares than posts without images. 

YouTube has over 100 million users every week, while over on Pinterest, video and photo posts are referring more traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Google+ according to online marketing experts, Hubspot.

Using visuals when telling your charitys story will increase engagement and make your message stand out from others. You’re also likely to get more social media shares and, if its an offline communication, such as a newsletter, you can show the donor your story quickly in one image without them having to read through pages and pages of information to get to the point.


Of course, it’s not quite as simple as just using nice pictures. You need to use the right imagery.

A good start is to think about images that have personally stood out for you.

For me, images that continue to resonate include the starving children in Ethopia around the time of the very first Band Aid campaign and the tombstone used in one of the first adverts to raise awareness of HIV/Aids through the Dont Die of Ignorancecampaign. (The latter scared the living daylights out of an entire generation which possibly wasn’t entirely what they were aiming for but it was certainly effective in getting the message across).


If you’d like to read more about this, Jeff Brooks has written a great post about why using the right images is important and how to determine which you should use.

In summary, he suggests the following when choosing your images:

  • Forget about what you like or dislike but more about what has stayed with you – whether you’ve hated it or not (like the tombstone image above, which I couldn’t say I liked but has definitely been memorable).
  • Does the image tell the same story that you’re trying to get across – and ask someone from outside your charity what it tells them.
  • Does it look real or staged?

Jeff’s tips on the most compelling fundraising images include:

  • Colour works better than black and white.
  • People work better than ‘things’.
  • Eye contact is good.
  • One person is better than lots of people.

An image will stay with your donors far longer than the written word so use and create a powerful message to improve your fundraising messages.  


The soul never thinks without a picture.   Aristotle



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Non-Profit Storytelling: How to Stand Out in a Crowd Tue, 08 Mar 2016 12:59:44 +0000 + Read More]]> non-profit storytelling

One of the common questions that I’m asked by potential clients (apart from ‘do you work for commission?’ Er, that’s a no) is:

‘How do we make our story appealing?’

Many charities find it difficult to make their story stand out – usually because they feel intimidated by causes that are more ‘popular’, such as cancer or animal charities.

So how do you improve your non-profit storytelling and, more importantly, inspire donors and potential donors?


1. Don’t make your story about your charity

It may seem obvious but it’s your cause that potential donors are going to support – not your charity per se. So, if you’re fundraising for a new building don’t talk at length about what it will look like and where it is. Focus on the difference that having this building will make to those that your charity works with. Will it help you to reach more people, develop innovative new programmes, make you more sustainable? What are the benefits that will be gained from having a new building?

Or, if you’re running a project for homeless people – the story isn’t about how the project will work, it’s about how it will affect the people that will be taking part.

Remember, the key to good storytelling is not to focus on the nuts and bolts of what you will spend the money on but to focus on the difference that money will make to your user group(s).


2. Use emotion

I’m not suggesting you tell a heart-rending tale every time you put pen to paper for any donor communication – in fact, you may not work in that type of arena at all – but what I mean by using emotion is, when you write, ask yourself how reading this will make the donor feel.


At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou


How does your current storytelling make a donor feel about your organisation and it’s work?

Does it inspire them to get involved or are you just a dull hum in the background of all the other information that they receive on a daily, in fact, hourly, basis?


3. Show, Don’t Tell

This is a rule for any type of storytelling. Tell your story through action, thoughts and feelings rather than simply stating the facts. Of course, there will be a need to convey certain facts but, particularly when you are writing with the aim of trying to make your work come alive for the reader, it’s more important to show them what you do. 

‘We helped Maya, a 16 year old single mother to get back to school and get a job when she thought that she had no option but to drop out’ is telling whereas:

It was really bad in the beginning. I spent most nights in my room with the baby sleeping in the crib next to me while I cried myself to sleep thinking my life was over. Then I met Sylvie at Teen Mums* and she told me about the creche programme they run. It meant I could go back to school and know the baby was being taken care of. Last week, I got my results – 4 A’s and 2 B’s! Now I know I can give my daughter a future because I know that I have one!

That, is showing.

*(Incidentally, I made up Sylvie and Teen Mums so apologies if you actually exist and aren’t a figment of my imagination!)

Showing tends to mean that you will have to use more words, but it helps to create a clearer picture in the reader’s head and engages them more in your work as they start to imagine what it is that you do.

This rule also applies when you’re asking for a specific sum of money. If you can show donors what it will be spent on – rather than telling them you need it to carry out your work – then they start to get a better idea of how their money will make a difference. For example, Battersea Dogs Home has a regular giving campaign and they spell out what the money is being used for.

“£8 a month could pay for all the care our hand-reared puppies need, including vaccinations to protect against illnesses and disease.”

Is far better than £8 a month helps us to look after the many dogs in our care.


4. Avoid jargon

We use it in everyday working life but avoid jargon when it comes to your storytelling. Donors won’t necessarily understand it – unless they’ve worked in your field, and why would you want to limit your potential donors to only those who have an insider’s understanding of your work?

More importantly, jargon filled text is difficult to read. It won’t leave a donor feeling engaged. In fact, it’s more likely to make them feel confused or even frustrated that you don’t use plain language.


5. Keep it simple

Your charity may be complex and multi-layered but, when it comes to non-profit storytelling, your message should be simple.

This ties into point one – what is the difference your work makes and how can you tell that as simply as possible? What are the outcomes of your work?


6. Use pictures

As I’ve said in an earlier post ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ – it also gets 12 times as many shares on Facebook and other social media – so don’t forget that when you’re looking to spread the word about your charity and its work, particularly online.

A picture can make your donor feel good about supporting your work  – and that’s storytelling gold.


7. Don’t forget a call to action

It’s all very well telling your story – hopefully, you will now have a potential supporter who is feeling inspired, engaged and ready to get involved – but there’s no point in doing all the hard work just to fail at the last hurdle. So what action do you now want the reader to take? Perhaps you want them to sign a campaign petition or write you a cheque, or maybe you’re looking for volunteers for an event – whatever it is, don’t forget to leave your potential donor with a clear understanding of what it is that you would like them to do now.


This article from Hubspot is well worth a read. Featuring 5 great storytelling examples from non-profits, it should give you some food for thought. 

I also love this infographic from the Content Management Association – not about nonprofit storytelling specifically – it gives great examples of how to tell your story effectively.


So, next time you put pen to paper to tell your charity’s story think about keeping it simple, talking about your impact and the difference you make on an individual level, if possible, and think about the transformation that your donor’s gift will make to your charity.

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Top 10 Fundraising Planning Questions Tue, 13 Jan 2015 10:54:12 +0000 + Read More]]> fundraising planningThis tends to be the time of year for planning – both in life (yes, I was at the gym at 7am this morning!) and work.

Fundraising planning is the key to success – and it can also provide much needed clarity of your goals.  So here are a few questions to help get your planning started in 2015.

  1. How was your fundraising in 2014? Before you even start to consider 2015, it’s time to review 2014. Did you achieve or exceed target – or fail to reach it? What were your successes and what didn’t work so well? What progress did you make?
  2. Taking into account your successes and failures last year, what are you going to do differently this year?
  3. What does success look like in 2015? More money in? More engaged donors? More of the same?
  4. What’s your income goal for 2015? How much do you want/need to raise in total? How much do you want to raise from trusts? Do you want to raise more or less from individuals? What about sponsorship? Map out your income against your goals and break it down into each type of funding to get a clear idea of where your focus needs to be.
  5. What are the timescales for bringing in that income? Do you have specific needs at certain times of the year? Is there an absolute deadline that you must have all of your income in by?
  6. What about donor retention? How many of your previous donors are still giving to your organisation? Given that it’s cheaper to retain donors than it is to recruit new ones, do you need to improve your donor retention through better donor communications and stewardship?
  7. How do your resources match up to your income goals? Do you need to achieve more with less and if so, how are you going to do that? For example, if you need to raise more money but have the same resources for fundraising, what are you going to do less of or do differently that will allow you to achieve that increase in income? Do you need to concentrate less on one type of funding and more on another?
  8. Who are your perfect donors?
  9. What qualities do they have that makes them your perfect donors? Are they more engaged with your non-profit? Do they fit a certain demographic?
  10. Can you translate these qualities to help you to reach out to other potential donors?

Sit down with a sheet of paper – or a blank computer screen – and roughly map out the answers to these questions, and you will have the beginnings of a rough fundraising plan that will help you to focus your fundraising efforts.

Good luck with your 2015 fundraising – and please ask any questions you have in the comments below!

Just read a great post on planning from @heatheractivate
Click To Tweet



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A fundraising quote for the season… Mon, 22 Dec 2014 14:24:00 +0000 fundraising quote for christmas

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Monday Motivation Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:05:41 +0000

Fundraising Quote of the Day!
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Getting the meeting with potential donors & sponsors: Fundraising Q&A Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:58:35 +0000 + Read More]]> sponsorship meeting I get lots of email enquiries from people asking for advice on specific questions to do with their fundraising – and I always try to respond directly to each one individually. However, as there are often themes that come up, it got me to thinking that perhaps I should share some of the responses more widely – so welcome to the first of my monthly Fundraising Q&A Sessions that deals with getting in front of donors & sponsors:


“I do lots of research to identify which companies have the greatest affinity with our cause but I still have difficulty getting an initial meeting. I know that if I could get in front of potential donors & sponsors, I could engage them with our work but how do I convince them to take time out of their busy schedules to meet with me?”


In a crowded marketplace it is often difficult to stand out from the crowd but, assuming the problem is getting in front of the right people in the first place (as opposed to making the ask and not getting the gift) there are a few key aspects to consider:


1. Start by focusing on your networks – I’ve said it before but your networks are the first place you should look.  Fundraising is all about relationships and, just because you’re looking at a company, that doesn’t mean the relationship rule doesn’t apply.  People make decisions about donations and sponsorship – not companies.  Look at the employers of your board (or companies that they are on the board of/own themselves); companies that are based in your local area or that recruit in your local area; company links with your partners or with your existing donors & sponsors.  Once you have that list THEN you should look at whether there is an affinity with your work.


2. Ask for referrals – rather than starting with a list of companies start with a list of your networks and ask those connections to make introductions to the key decision makers in companies that they have a connection to. Do you have well networked donors or board members who would be willing to introduce you to their networks? Do you work with a partner organisation who has strong corporate partners that they could (and would introduce you to)?


3. Flip it around – Once you’ve exhausted your networks for your research, then you should start to look at companies that you have an affinity with.  However, once you have this list, can you find out whether there are any networks that you are one step removed from there? You may think that your board has told you about everyone they know of (and to be fair, so might they) but they and you might not have realised that the person they live next door to is one of the main decision makers for sponsorship at the company you’d love to work with. 

In addition, you should drill down into your ‘affinity’ company list to identify whether they have sponsored a charity that you know? Could your contact in that charity make an introduction on your behalf or even provide a testimonial in an initial approach letter?  Obviously, not all will be willing to do this but charities are often more than happy to help out so it’s worth asking at least. And if they won’t give you an introduction, they might be happy to give you some background or pointers that helped them when they made their own successful approach.  Remember, if you don’t ask for help, you won’t get it.


4. Do your research – make sure that you’re pitching your approach to the right person in the first place by doing some basic research. That can be as simple as phoning reception and asking who deals with CSR activity or sponsorship or you could Google the company name + sponsorship (or donations).  What you want to do is make sure that it ends up on the desk of the right person in the first place. Not only does that mean you aren’t wasting anyone’s time but it also shows that you are interested in the company – interested enough to have found out who to write to in the first place.


5. Ask for feedback – If you’re still getting nowhere, ask for feedback from those companies that you’re approaching but try to be specific.  Don’t just ask for general feedback but explain that you’re wondering whether your pitch isn’t right or if it’s your timing or amount you’re asking for.  This might help you to begin to assess where and why your approaches aren’t hitting the mark.


By looking at your prospect research differently, you should begin to develop a list of potential corporate donors & sponsors that it feels as though you can assign actions to  – rather than having a long list of companies with no clear action beyond ‘get them to support us’. If you’ve any other tips for getting in front of potential supporters, please leave them in the comments below – and of course, if you’d like to feature in a future Fundraising Q&A Session, let me know.

Tweet: Click to Tweet: I’m reading all about getting meetings with sponsors via @HeatherActivate – great post!

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3 questions to help you to engage donors with your stories Mon, 30 Jun 2014 18:16:04 +0000 + Read More]]> engage donorsMany of the clients that I’ve worked with do amazing work and make a difference to people’s lives but often, they struggle to engage donors with their stories. Sometimes, this is because they’re used to working in a specific sector and use too much jargon or insider language. Other times it’s because funding comes from government or other statutory bodies that require ‘reporting’ in quite a different way from donors and so they aren’t in the habit of writing in a more engaging, emotive way.

Whatever the reason, there are 3 key questions that you need to ask yourself in order to make your story – and therefore, your non-profit – more engaging to potential and current donors. In other words, to raise more money and keep donors enthusiastic about your cause.


It doesn’t matter if you have an ‘obvious’ cause – such as a cancer, poverty, children – the questions that you need to ask remain the same:


1. Can you put yourself in your donors shoes? This is probably the most important question you need to ask yourself if you want to develop an inspiring story that won’t just catch your donors attention but will encourage them to put their hands in their pockets. In order to answer this question, you need to have a good idea of who your donors are – or are likely to be.  Once you know that, you will have a clearer idea of the work that you do that resonates with them, the way that they like to be communicated with, and the aspects of your work that are important to them and most likely, therefore, to gain their support.


 You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird 


2. What is your why? Donors care more about why you do what you do, than what you do.  Your ‘why’ reflects the values of your non-profit – why it does what it does – and in turn, donors can start to see themselves and their values in your messages. Ultimately, that recognition will help to inspire them to give to your cause and to continue to be involved and inspired by your work.

Simon Sinek is the leading expert on discovering your why – and this TED talk that he gave in 2009 illustrates exactly why your ‘why’ will encourage loyalty. He’s talking about consumers but the same rules can easily apply to donors and non-profits. They are, after all, one of your customer groups.


3. What would happen if your doors closed tomorrow? Every fundraiser should have a clear idea of the need behind their non-profit’s work but what would the world look like without you – and where would the gaps be – what would the landscape look like for your beneficiaries 6, 12 or 24 months after you ceased to exist? That will help to give donors a real sense of why you are important and why what you do is needed – and of course, why you are the organisation to provide it.


There are, of course, many other messages that you could choose to weave into your story and:

  • knowing your audience,
  • getting to the heart of your mission/your ‘why’
  • explaining the need for your work

are all central to your story helping to form the structure of better stories to engage more of your donors.


No-one should underestimate the power of good storytelling.  It is vital for every non-profit.  After all, we all work in a crowded marketplace with literally hundreds of messages competing for our the attention of our donors. Getting it right by understanding your potential donors – and fuelling their imagination – is key to your survival if you want to raise more money.


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Successful Sponsorship Negotiation: Getting to Yes Fri, 30 May 2014 13:52:58 +0000 + Read More]]> sponsorship negotationYou’ve written your initial sponsorship approach to your dream sponsor and have been invited in to pitch.  How do you get them from interested to yes? Here are a few sponsorship negotiation tips to put into practice in the meeting:


The first two points are about mindset – yours – and getting into the right frame of mind before you walk in the room to meet your potential sponsor.


1. What’s your best alternative? Before you even step through the door, decide what your best alternative is. This is not something you will share with your potential sponsor but is the absolute minimum you’re prepared to negotiate to. Don’t make it too low or too difficult to deliver and make sure that it will still serve you well – otherwise, you could find yourself with a sponsor who is giving you far less than you would like while still having to jump through hoops for them.


2. Be confident about your offer. You also need to be very clear with yourself that you are NOT the weaker partner in this. You may need sponsorship but you are not so desperate for it that you will give away too much for too little. Sponsorship – successful sponsorship – is a two-way street with both partners benefiting from the relationship.  If you’re not in a win-win situation for both partners, this is unlikely to be a sponsorship worth having. Remember that – and the fact that you will have other opportunities to negotiate with other potential sponsors – and be clear and confident about your offer.


3. Open at Your Max – there is no point in starting off a sponsorship negotiation at anything lower than your maximum so don’t beat around the bush. Be clear, consistent and spell out what you would like – and more importantly, the benefits that your sponsor will get as a result. For example, if it’s headline sponsorship, perhaps you’re offering a level of exclusivity. You will be able to determine early on in the meeting whether or not this sponsor is likely to meet you at your max – and if they’re not you can start to get a sense of where they will meet you and what you will offer them in return.


4. Use Silence – outline your max and the potential benefits that could be associated with that – and then stop talking. You’re not trying to intimidate the potential sponsor.  However, by using silence, you will demonstrate that you are confident about your offer – rather than blabbing on nervously and giving them the impression that they could negotiate their way into anything because you’re so desperate for a sponsor. Silence is also useful because, as with donor conversations, what’s most important about any negotiation is that you listen to what the other party is saying. If you barely draw breath for the entire meeting, you won’t hear what they’re saying and you won’t pick up cues about what they’re looking for.


5. Offer Better Terms – if they seem unsure but it’s not an out and out ‘No’ perhaps you could offer better terms. Maybe they’re coming into an expensive time of the year or have other outgoings around the time of your event, project or programme – in which case, do you need the money beforehand or could they pay in instalments? Remember, sometimes a sponsor’s unwillingness is not because they don’t want to sponsor you but because they have other concerns around the deal. One event sponsorship that I negotiated clashed with a potential sponsor’s training event but they loved the organisation I worked for – so I simply switched their sponsorship to another event at the same level with the same benefits and for the same amount but at a different time of year – sorted.


6. Give and Get Something Back – remember that, while you are asking your potential sponsor to give you something they are getting something valuable back in return – a unique association with your charity. Perhaps you’re putting them in front of an audience that they want to reach or maybe their support will show them in a different light. When you go into a sponsorship negotiation never lose sight of the fact that they are getting something in return even if it is your charity that is benefiting financially.


7. Ask for Something Valuable that Doesn’t Cost Them – if they’re adamant that they can’t afford to sponsor you at the level you are seeking but are only interested in that particular level of sponsorship in terms of benefits, consider whether there is something else they could give you besides the money they are prepared to offer that is valuable to you but won’t cost them a penny. Will they give you a full page ad in their staff magazine to promote a charity challenge? Will they promote your charity in their stores throughout the month of May? Will they give you part sponsorship in cash and part in kind (this works well if they offer products but equally, if they offer services. For example, could they offer customer training to your front of house staff or social media training to your comms team?)


Above all, sponsorship negotiation should be flexible and creative. Don’t view it with fear but as an opportunity for two parties to work together to create something unique and you will be well on your way to success. When I worked at the National Museums of Scotland, one of the first sponsorships that I negotiated for them was for an exclusive exhibition from the Forbidden City in Beijing.  I went into the meeting with my ‘benefits list’ and a determination to get the best for both of us. Not only did I negotiate the largest sponsorship the Museum had had up until then but I also worked with the sponsor to deliver a complementary exhibition created by household name fashion designers that they worked with, which was inspired by the exhibition and featured an opening with model Jodie Kidd, dripping in diamonds and a Scott Henshall one-off creation. This was picked up by national press – many of which had never written about the Museums before. I could never have gone into that meeting with those benefits as I didn’t know they could even potentially exist but through the sponsorship negotiation process, the sponsor and I laid our cards on the table, put our heads together and created something truly unique, which gave both of us benefits far beyond what we had imagined.


Go in to your sponsorship negotiation meetings knowing that you are equal parties, that your charity has something valuable that the sponsor wants and that you are determined to negotiate a win-win situation – and you are well on your way to negotiating a successful sponsorship deal. Good luck!


This post was inspired by a seminar by Julia Langkraehr at the Thrive: Women Unlimited Conference in London in March 2014. Although it was about business negotiations, I recognised that there were techniques that I’d also used in successful sponsorship negotiations.



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Building donor loyalty: lessons from Murdo Thu, 22 May 2014 12:42:12 +0000 + Read More]]> Donor loyalty is central to any successful fundraising programme – and so it should be when you consider that it costs 6 to 7 times as much to recruit a new donor as it does to keep and encourage future giving from an existing donor – but how do you keep donors loyal to your cause?


Well, when it comes to lessons in donor loyalty, I look to no other than man’s (or woman’s) best friend (stick with me on this one, all will become clear…)

Murdo teaching donor loyalty

First up, introductions:

Meet Murdo, my 1 year old Cockapoo who is a bundle of fun and energy that the entire family has fallen head over heels in love with since about 24 hours after he trotted through the door last July.

OK, so he’s cute (very) but what can he teach us about fundraising?



1. How clear are your messages?

Last summer, as a brand new dog owner, I took myself and my little pup off to dog training classes and it was only when I met the trainer that I realised how important it is to send out clear and consistent messages.

Here I was, trying to figure out why he wouldn’t come when called and thinking that perhaps it was because he didn’t know me that well yet or didn’t consider me to be his owner when the dog trainer pointed out that ‘Come On’ and ‘Come’ are two totally different commands.  I might know that they mean the same thing but Murdo doesn’t speak English (to be clear, he doesn’t actually speak) so he had no clue. They both sounded different to him. 

How clear and consistent are your messages? Do you say the same things around your fundraising – or do you confuse lots of different messages? Do you know which messages your donor’s respond to – and which they ignore? It’s worth spending time to cast a critical eye over the various messages that you send out to donor’s and to ask yourself:

  • are they clear?
  • are we consistent in what we say?
  • do they work – and how do we know (ie do donors respond to them)?

Of course, you may have many complex messages that you want to convey and if that’s the case, you should consider which messages donor’s respond to before bombarding them with lots of different ones.  If you need to get focus around this, Marc Pitman recently wrote a great post about the rule of 3s, which essentially, suggests that you choose 3 messages about your charity.  Worth a read!



Murdo & donor loyalty

A blur of wagging tail

2. Get to know your donor

This follows on from knowing which messages work for your donors – but how well do you actually know them?

Murdo knows how to get each of us to pay special attention to him – mainly because he took the time to figure us out.  He knows that if he grabs a toy, barks and jumps around, my son will run out the back and play fetch with him or get down and wrestle – similarly, he knows that won’t work with my daughter but that she prefers to cuddle in on the sofa.  Murdo also knows that if he jumps up on me, I’ll ignore him so he gently paws my leg when he wants attention. He also knows that under no circumstances do I let him on the sofa but when Mr Activate is around, he jumps straight up next to him!  And he knew all of that within a few weeks of us getting him because he pays attention to what works for each of us and puts it into practice. Pretty impressive, right?

Do you know what works for your donors? Do you know what switches them on, encourages them to give to you by return mail or, conversely, what they really don’t want to know about?

This is where keeping an eye on response rates to mailings or online appeals is important. And similarly, with major donors, you should know who likes to get the annual review, who prefers not to get any mail but likes a call and who will always come to your events.

If you haven’t been measuring response rates or click throughs or taking note of people’s preferred communications, don’t panic – but start recording the information now.


3. Pay attention

First thing in the morning, Murdo makes sure that he has said his special hello to each of us when we get up: tail wagging so furiously it could power a generator, big licks, little high pitch ‘hello’ bark. We each get this in turn when we come downstairs – and it’s not just to encourage us to feed him – even the members of the household who get up after he’s eaten breakfast will get the same attention.

How much attention do you pay to your donors? I’m not just talking stewardship here, I’m talking ‘paying attention’. Do you ever, for example, ask for their opinions? As fundraisers, we’re often so focused on the bottom line that donor communications can circulate around: asking for money, strengthening the message about our work, saying thank you, asking for money…

Now, of course, you want and need to do all of these things but have you ever stopped to ask your donors what they think about your work – or about the information you send them? You could make personal phone calls to donors or even send out an annual donor survey. What matters is that you ask them for their opinion AND (here’s the important part) demonstrate that you’ve taken on board what they have said.  You can encourage greater donor loyalty by paying attention, particularly when you use the feedback you receive to help you to improve your communications too.

Murdo & donor loyalty again

Those are my top three lessons in donor loyalty that have been learned from Murdo. Who knew that a ginger Cockapoo could be so wise when it comes to fundraising?

I’m reading about donor loyalty – thanks @HeatherActivate!
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