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3 Immediate Steps for Financially Failing Nonprofits

by Perry Jowsey on Aug 6, 2018 4:28:55 PM

Last month I designed an interactive assessment for nonprofit finances, designed to provide an immediate snapshot to help evaluate and monitor nonprofit health.  Taking stock of this sort is more important now than ever before.  According to Forbes in 2016, half of nonprofits are set up to fail – and that was in the midst of economic boom predating current year predictions of a $20 Billion charitable giving decrease. 

Although budgeting with a downward and declining revenue projection is a dominant reality for nonprofits entering 2019, some are far more vulnerable to market forces.  You might be working for an organization where the ‘writing is on the wall’, perhaps through several years of budget deficits and hemorrhaging of cash.  Or, it might hit you out of the blue, like corporate giant Bear Stearns in 2008 – dissolving overnight after posting its first quarter of revenue loss in a more than 80-year history. 

Whatever path has led you here, if you’re among the 10% or so that scored under 20 on my assessment, your organization has a terminal diagnosis. Just as with any diagnosis this severe, the alternatives are to accept the fate and focus on getting affairs in order for the inevitable end, or to fight to the end with optimism and embracing all experimental remedies.  

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Topics: Nonprofit, Fundraising

5 Authenticated Secrets to Use in Content Marketing for Nonprofits

by Dan Linn on Jul 26, 2018 3:56:30 PM

Fall is just around the corner.

Have you considered launching a fall fundraising campaign?

Seasonal campaigns are a great way to make up for funding shortfalls, build support and advance your mission.

For many small nonprofits, running an effective seasonal campaign may seem too difficult.

But sometimes, all it takes is the right game plan to get things moving.

Many hold the preconceived notion that marketing is exclusive to the realm of for-profit companies.

But, this is simply not the case.

Nonprofits are competing with each other for donor interest and need to implement an effective marketing strategy to truly stand out.

Grab a pen and a piece of paper and answer these 10 questions.

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Topics: Fundraising, Content Marketing, Nonprofit Marketing

A 10 Question Quiz to Assess Your Fundraising and Nonprofit Health

by Perry Jowsey on Jul 20, 2018 3:58:09 PM

July is a natural time to take stock of your nonprofit organizational health. 

For most, it is the beginning of a new fiscal year, and for most others, it marks the mid-way point of current operations.  In any case, the final 4 months of the calendar year are central to nonprofit fundraising success.

While no one formula or set of circumstances can guarantee failure or success, there are some core areas where best performing organizations thrive, and where those who cannot hit these structural benchmarks languish or dissolve.

We’ve used these principles to put together this quiz as a tool for your organizational self-assessment. 

Are you poised for a fundraising windfall this year, or is a precarious future lurking around the corner?  Complete the answers below and use the scoring key to determine your results.

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Topics: Nonprofit, Fundraising

Donor Behavior 101; Building A Fundraising Strategy for Success

by Dan Linn on Jul 16, 2018 2:30:37 PM

As the development director of your nonprofit, you probably spend a lot of time trying to understand your organization’s target market.

What are their interests, needs and desires?

What really makes them tick?

What makes them want to donate to your nonprofit?

But don’t lose site of the big picture.

If you’re looking too closely at your own target market and how to push your nonprofit marketing message out, it’s easy to forget the foundation of successful donor cultivation.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Fundraising, Content Marketing, Nonprofit Marketing

Three Ways to be More Personal in Nonprofit Fundraising

by Perry Jowsey on May 13, 2018 4:39:12 PM

Dear Donor,

Don’t take this personally.  This letter has been auto-generated by a moderately priced software program, but it will make no attempt to use your name, speak to you individually, or make any reference to your contribution history.  You should feel lucky, however, because we know many nonprofit organizations won’t bother to send you a letter at all.  We appreciate your continued support.

Not so sincerely, your soon to be former charity of choice.


Hyperbole aside, nonprofit organizations are communicating with donors like this every day.  Generic correspondence is pushed out at arbitrary intervals, hoping for substantial returns but not in accordance with a governing strategy and not actively conducting performance analytics.

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Topics: Fundraising, Nonprofit Marketing

Nonprofit Marketing Strategies for Inbound Marketing Can't be Optional

by Dan Linn on May 9, 2018 6:58:54 AM

Perhaps the biggest challenge in nonprofit marketing today is also the biggest opportunity.

Nonprofit organizations have access to countless digital choices for reaching key audiences.

These many options have fostered the need for exploration and experimentation, which is why it’s common to hear about for-profit companies running 5 or 6 figure marketing tests that could eventually be grown to 7 figure marketing campaigns.

But nonprofits don’t have the luxury of open-ended testing and growth budgets.

How can charities strike the right balance with their nonprofit marketing budgets when experimenting with new initiatives?

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Fundraising, Nonprofit Marketing

Grant Writing as a Nonprofit Fundraising Strategy, 8 Tips for Success

by Dan Linn on Apr 24, 2018 3:24:21 PM

Of the three basic sources of revenue that fund nonprofits; earned income, donations from individuals and grants, the process of getting a grant is perhaps the most puzzling. 

It is a rare nonprofit organization that could continue to carry out its mission if their grant funding dried up.

All but the smallest nonprofit organizations are likely to have people on staff or use outside counsel who specialize in grant writing.

Executive directors who see the success or failure of winning grants as a fundraising strategy as residing solely in the hands of the grant writer, fail to consider something even more important than the grant application—namely the purpose of the funding.

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Topics: Fundraising, Nonprofit Marketing

Nonprofit Fundraising ROI: A Deeper Dive on Reasonable Costs to Raise a Dollar

by Perry Jowsey on Apr 3, 2018 3:15:00 PM

What separates great nonprofit fundraising operations from middling ones?  Great fundraisers – professional staff, volunteer board members, or expert consultants – develop and work an active plan to maximize the ROI.  They yield the highest possible revenue being conscious of costs. 

And so it may seem that nonprofits who stretch their budgets the furthest are by definition the most efficient.  Yet, analysis we conducted last year revealed that paradoxically, pinching pennies on fundraising costs was actually far less efficient, and increased the cost to raise a dollar.  

Like hedge fund managers, great fundraisers find the narrow path where they can make targeted investments to generate maximum revenue.   Under-investing or overspending are commonplace; proactively initiating campaigns where you can predictably and reliably raise a dollar for under fifteen cents are rarefied instances.  Yet, with the right planning, this is exactly what your nonprofit should accomplish.

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Topics: Fundraising

Contrarian Opportunities in Nonprofit Fundraising for 2018 

by Perry Jowsey on Feb 4, 2018 2:38:53 PM

Despite many predictions to the contrary, charitable giving will increase considerably in 2018.  Moreover, corporate giving this year will increase by a greater rate than for the entire previous 5-year period.  But the news isn’t all good for nonprofits; the worst positioned operations will face devastating financial consequences.  So say my bold predictions for nonprofit fundraising in 2018.

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Topics: Fundraising, Nonprofit Marketing

Alumni Engagement in The Age of Digital Fundraising

by Dan Linn on Jan 22, 2018 1:00:00 PM



As colleges continue to graduate more students and have larger alumni pools, transitioning younger alumni into givers continues to be a challenge.

As reported by Blackbaud in their publication entitled 2016 donorCentrics Annual Report on Higher Education Alumni Giving, “as has been the case in nearly every year in recent history, alumni participation rates continue to decline in general, with the median for private universities slipping another percentage point to 18% and the public universities median also dropping one percent to 5%.”

To reverse the trends of 2016, public and private schools will really need to rethink strategies for reactivating lapsed donors and acquiring more new alumni donors.

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Topics: Fundraising, Higher Education