Sandy Rees will show you how to plan a year’s worth of diverse funding streams to support your growing nonprofit.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Sandy, we’re rolling. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially?

Sandy: Let’s do it.

Steven: All right. Cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Good morning, if you’re on the West coast, I should say. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “How to Plan Your Fundraising When Your Nonprofit is New and the World is in Crisis.”

But I’m happy to be here. It’s a wild time, like some of you heard us talking about before, but I’m glad to see so many of you all in here. I hope you’re doing okay. Hope you’re staying healthy and productive. We had a good Giving Tuesday. We’re recording this on May 6th, but just glad you’re here. I’m Steven over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here. Just want to let everyone know that we are recording and we’ll be sending out the slides as well as the recording later on this afternoon. So if you have to leave early, you got an appointment or maybe you get interrupted by an animal or a toddler, don’t worry, we’ll get all that good stuff to you later on.

Most importantly, though, please feel free to chat in your questions and comments. Introduce yourself in the chat if you haven’t already done so. We’d love to hear from you. We’re going to try to save some time for Q&A both during and after the session. So don’t be shy. We’d love to hear from you. You can also do that on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed if you’re a Twitter type person. But yeah, chat away. Don’t sit on those hands.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just for context, if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, we do these webinars all the time. It used to be once a week, but now we’re doing a couple of sessions a week, at least. We love it. It’s one of our favorite things we do at Bloomerang. But what we are most known for is our donor database software. That’s what we are. We’re donor management.

So check us out if you’re interested, if you want to learn more, if you are shopping right now or just kind of curious. Just hit our website and you can watch some videos and see all that good stuff in action.

But don’t do that right now. We’ve got a very special guest. A friend of the program is an understatement for my buddy, Sandy Rees, joining us from beautiful Tennessee. Sandy, how are you doing? You doing okay?

Sandy: Doing great, and excited to be here.

Steven: Yeah, I’m excited to have you. I think you are our first webinar guest ever, eight years ago. I don’t know if you were aware of that, but she’s the webinar champion and I always love having her back. She’s always got awesome information for us.

If you don’t know her, check her out. Check out Get Fully Funded. Awesome website, great blog, great newsletter. She’s got a great Facebook group that I like to kind of poke my head in every once in a while. She’ll share all that good stuff with you. You’ll want to join that.

Been doing this a long time. Has tons of clients. She’s helping raise a ton of money, not just in general, but especially over the last few weeks or so. And an animal lover also. If any of you are listening and in animal welfare, you got a friend in Sandy. She’s got horses. She’s got dogs, cats. Got a dog under her feet right now, I think. Might hear from her. That’d be okay with me, actually.

But anyway, Sandy, I’m going to pass things over to you because I want people to hear from you and not me, so I’ll let you share your screen and take it away, my friend.

Sandy: All right. We’re going to get this rocking and rolling. So I am really excited to be able to share this. I’ve been doing webinars on planning for a long time but never really angled it and dug in for planning when your nonprofit is new.

So what I thought what we’d do today is talk a little bit about how do you put your plans together when your nonprofit is new and when the world is in crisis, because that’s what we’re dealing with right now, right? Just the craziness of the world. Steven and I were talking about that a minute ago. It’s a weird time for fundraising and yet there are a lot of people raising money. More about that in a minute.

All right. So you’re in the right place if your nonprofit is new or newish. Maybe if your organization is a year or so old, this is all going to still be real appropriate for you. Fundraising seems a little overwhelming right now. I know that can certainly be. Got a lot of people who have a little bit of like deer in the headlights going on right now with like, “Oh my gosh, our whole plan just went out the window. I have no idea what to do next.” You have no idea where to start even, or you don’t want to be insensitive that some people have lost their jobs, and so maybe you’re a little hesitant to raise money.

So if that describes you or you just want to know, “Where do I start? What template do I use? How do I do this and get it right?” you’re in the right place. I’ve got lots of great ideas for you today.

Mostly what I want to do is get you away from this. Now, how many of you I can relate? You’ve got notes everywhere. Your desk looks like a paper bomb exploded. I get this. This can be me occasionally. I do tend to be the queen of the sticky notes. I have quite a few on my desk right now.

When you get a plan put together, it’s going to help you eliminate some of this and get a little more organized. And listen, being organized is going to help you raise more money. It’s going to help you leverage your resources better. So I want to get you away from all of this.

Here’s what we’re going to cover today. I want to talk about how to set goals for your first year of fundraising. This is really important. If you don’t have a goal, you have no idea when you’ve crossed the finish line and can do the happy dance.

We’re going to talk about what kind of fundraising you should do and what you should probably avoid. There are some things that do tend to work a little bit better than others, especially when you’re new. And so I want to talk more about that.

And then I want to get you started on creating a manageable 90-day action plan. And we’re going to talk about why 90 days as opposed to a whole year. So that’s where we’re going today.

Now, for those of you who are new to the world of Sandy Rees and Get Fully Funded, I am a fundraising coach. This is what I do every day. And I’ve actually spent a lot of time in this particular chair, a lot of time with these earbuds in, helping organizations, small organizations, new organizations, young organizations, figure out how to raise money.

And I do it based on what the organization needs, what they have going for them, what the individual fundraisers have as strengths. And we kind of mash that all up and figure out, “Well, what is your fastest path to cash? What is the thing that you can do that’s going to set you up for success now to get you the revenue that you need, but also long-term success?” More about why you don’t want to just focus on the money in a little while.

And I’m a trainer. I do a lot of webinars, as Steven said. I think that’s funny that I was the first one eight years ago. I do a lot of webinars. Actually, I have about four in the next week or so.

A blog. I do make sure that I’m providing some really good content every week at You can go check that all out.

And a huge animal lover. This is my dog, Lucy. This is not the one that I have with me today. We do have a lot of animals between us. We are vastly outnumbered.

One of the things I want you to know as we dive into this is that even though . . . I know a few things about fundraising at this point. I’ve been doing it for about 20 years. That has not always been the case. So there was a time when I was like you, very new to fundraising and had that responsibility on my shoulders and looked around and said, “I don’t have any idea where to start. I’m going to try this. I’m going to try that.” And I did figure some things out.

The one year that I really had the responsibility of fundraising actually was when I was working at a food bank. And it took me a little while to figure it out. There were no classes back then that you could take. There was not a whole lot of on-the-job training and I had to figure it out the hard way.

And so one of the things that I want to do for you today is to show you some shortcuts that you can take so that your learning curve does not have to look like my learning curve. Mine was long. It was a little bit ugly. There was a lot of bumpiness in it, and I don’t want you to have to deal with that.

So, actually, this is where I’m sitting right now. There’s that chair. So this is me. We do work with clients all over. A lot of animal welfare groups, but also a lot of basic human needs kind of things and a lot of kids groups and then a lot of international groups as well.

And this was the thing that cracks me up. I’m in a tiny little town in Tennessee and we have clients all over the world. We’ve worked with people in India, several countries in Africa, Germany, Great Britain. You name it, we’ve probably got people there, and I think that’s so much fun because we’re able to have a big impact in the world.

All right. So enough about me. Let’s talk about fundraising, right? It’s the F word. Woo. Fundraising is necessary if you’re going to grow your organization and be able to fulfill your mission and serve those that you’re here to serve. And it doesn’t have to be yucky, uncomfortable, or anything. It actually can be quite fun when you know what you’re going to do next, when you’re working from a plan.

The basis that I use for almost everything that I do in fundraising is when you raise more money, you can change more lives. And that is what we are here for. Your nonprofit exists to make a difference. The more money that you raise, the more good you can do. The more money you raise, the easier you can sleep at night. You’re not worrying about, “Where’s the money coming from? How am I paying for this? How am I paying for that?” So just wanted to kind of set you up that that’s where we are going. All of this is easier when you have a plan. That’s why we’re here today.

Now, for new nonprofits, you do have some special challenges. So like I said, I teach a webinar for planning, and one of the things that I usually tell people is you need to start by looking at your historical data. What has worked in the past? Well, for a new nonprofit, you don’t have any historical data, so you’re really not sure yet what works and what doesn’t work for your organization.

You might be able to look around at some other organizations in your area, some similar sized organizations, to see what’s working for them, but just because something works for somebody else doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for you. Keep that in mind.

And what that means is you don’t want to necessarily copy something just because it seems to work for someone else, because if it seems to work, unless you have inside data, you don’t really know if it’s working for them.

For new nonprofits, this can make it really tough to budget revenue. A lot of the brand new and the really young organizations that we work with, frankly, when we’re budgeting revenue, we try to be very, very conservative. But at the end of the day, it is a guess about how much we think we can generate from things.

One of the other reasons I want you to do this in 90-day chunks is because you’re going to learn as you go. You’re going to try things and you’re going to see what’s working. You’re going to have a sense of how much you can generate when you do, let’s say, a small online campaign, and then you’re going to be able to use that going forward.

Lack of fundraising skill or knowledge can slow you down. I’m really glad you’re here because then you’re going to gain some fundraising knowledge today. And the lack of helpful volunteers or board members can be a real problem. I know that a whole other topic that we could talk about is board members, and a lot of folks that I work with, frankly, if I mention board members, they roll their eyes. And I know that this all gets easier when you have people to help you. For right now, just know that this can be a challenge if you don’t have people around you who can help and are willing to help. Again, whole other topic.

And if that wasn’t all hard enough, now we have a COVID-19 and we have a lot of quarantining and staying at home and things are all very different right now. However, here’s what I want to say to you about this. There is money out there right now. You can raise money, and you can take that to the bank.

I have all clients, all kinds in various organizations, various kinds of niches of nonprofit, and they’re all raising money right now. And the biggest reason is because they are asking. They are simply asking people to support them, and they are asking in a way that’s really connecting. It’s resonating with donors, it’s resonating with prospects, and people are giving.

So I don’t want you to say, “Well, we can’t do anything right now because of coronavirus.” It’s not true. There’s a lot you can do. You may have to get creative and you may have to get scrappy. That’s what we’re calling it around here. You know, when you run against a roadblock and you’re like, “Well, we can’t do an in person event,” it’s easy at that point to just kind of shut down and, “Don’t do that.” You can shut down or you can make a choice. And you can look around and say, “Okay, we can’t do that. What can we do? How can we still make this happen?” So don’t let this shut you down. You can do this.

As I mentioned, the key to success here really is looking for options when you run into roadblocks or feel stuck. And I’ll give you a couple of tips on his right fast.

If you are not taking care of yourself and you are very tired, you are getting into that place of feeling emotionally drained and physically drained, you’ve got to take care of yourself, because when you are not at your best, you can’t look for options. You cannot look for options when you are exhausted, and you can’t look for options when you are drained. So it’s really important that you’re taking care of yourself and not overdoing it right now.

Self-care can look like a whole lot of things right now. It can look like going outside for a walk. It can look like playing with your dog. It can look like indulging in a hobby or a favorite book for an hour. It can look like a lot of things, but seriously, take care of yourself.

Let’s get into the planning. That’s the good stuff and that’s what you’re here for. So I said all of that to kind of get you prepped for where we’re going next. Planning is a really interesting thing for a new nonprofit. It’s going to require a lot of creativity, it’s going to require a lot of ideas and some brainstorming, and you’re going to have to try some things. So I want you to be really mindful not to jump into something and say, “Well, that’s not going to work,” because the minute you say, “Well, that’s not going to work,” guess what? It just became a self-fulfilling prophecy. So let’s be careful.

Step 1 is you need to set two goals. So if you’re taking notes, this is a really good place to write this down. You don’t want to just start out and try to raise as much as you can. That’s not a good goal, and you never know when you’ve crossed the finish line.

Actually, it’s kind of like this. So this is Maggie, and this actually is the dog who’s at my feet, minus her cute little pink sweater. She has really thin hair and she has to wear a sweater in the winter or she shivers all the time and I can’t stand it.

Anyway, Maggie is a happy little dog and you probably even see in this picture, her tail is a little blurry. You know why her tail is blurry? Because it’s wagging, all the time. She cracks me up sometimes when she’s under my desk and she wags her tail because I can hear it bang, bang, bang on the desk. It’s really funny.

Here’s the point. If you try to go out and just raise as much as you can and then come back and figure out how to spend it, that’s like a tail wagging the dog. That’s backwards. It’s not how you need to do this. You don’t want to just try to raise all you can or whatever you can get and then figure out how to spend it. You want to flip that around.

So your two goals that you need to set, number one, you want to think programmatically. Even if your organization is brand new and you haven’t started programs this year, you need to think about what do you want to do. What programs do you want to get off the ground and how many will you serve? So you have to start by thinking about service delivery. Think about those programs.

And I know this is hard. For some of you, this is going to because you to have to think about things you haven’t really thought about before. For some of you, you’re going to have to really nail down your vision. You’re going to have to nail down your plan, and you need to, so I want you to get really clear about the programs first and how many you’re going to serve.

And then what you want to do is figure out how much is that going to cost. What will it cost you to deliver the programs that you’re thinking about? When you do that, you’re going to be able to figure out then how much you need to raise.

So to figure out what your fundraising goal needs to be, you’re going to start by planning your programs for the year, and then you’re going to try to assign a price tag to every piece of it. You’re going to get into some detail on those direct program fees with materials and supplies, if you need team or staff, if you need to rent a place. You’re going to itemize all that out and add it up.

And then I also want you to think about what you need to run your nonprofit this year. How much do you need for whatever your ongoing administrative costs are or your fundraising costs? You want to try to detail that out as much as you can.

And I get it that that can be a little tough in the beginning, but you need to give it a shot. Give it a shot. Even if you’re not a numbers person, give this a shot.

So when you figure out your program cost, and your administrative and fundraising, you’re going to add those two together because that should be what you need to run your organization this year, and that’s how much you need to raise. Hopefully that is making sense.

I should have warned you we were going to do math this afternoon. I know math can kind of freak people out.

And you know what else you do when you start itemizing all those numbers out? You’re essentially creating a budget for the year, which you really, really need. You need some kind of tool, you need some kind of financial roadmap, something that helps you figure out what you’re planning to spend this year. Spending based on how much is in the bank account? Not a good idea. Don’t do it that way.

So the two goals that you need to set are about laying out what you’re going to do programmatically and then figuring out how much that’s going to cost, because that becomes your fundraising goal. Everybody got that? All right. That is the first step in putting your plan together.

Then the second step is about choosing the strategies that you need. So you’re going to start thinking about what fundraising activities you want to engage in. So here’s where it gets really interesting, because there are so many things that you could do.

If we were to make a list . . . and I do this sometimes in classes. I say, “Let’s make a list of everything you can think of that counts as fundraising.” Man, we can fill up flip chart sheets by the dozens because there are so many things that you could do.

There are a couple of ways that I want you to think about this so that you are more strategic. Now, here’s what happens a lot of times. People will hear me say this and they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” and they go out and they just raise money however. They realize real fast what I’m talking about here, that some strategies are more productive than others and some are what we call nickel and dime activities where they barely generate any money at all for all the time and effort you put in.

Listen, you’re just like everybody else. You don’t have unlimited time during the day. Time is probably your most precious commodity right now. And so you need to spend your time on those strategies that are going to be the ones that are most productive for you.

So here’s how I want you to think about this. I want you to think about fundraising that plays to your strengths. In other words, if you see other people going out to do speaking engagements to, let’s say, rotary clubs, which I think is a really good idea to spread the word, but if that terrifies you and you don’t want to do that, don’t do it. You don’t have to do something just because everybody else does.

But I do want you to be really clear about what your strengths are and I want you to play to them. Why? Because when you’re playing to your strengths, it feels easier. And if you’re doing fundraising activities that feel easier, you’re probably going to be more productive with them.

Making sense? Yeah, some of you just went, “Whew, thank you for letting me off the hook and giving me permission to not do everything.” You got it.

I also want you to choose fundraising that gets you the most bang for the buck. What we’re talking about here is return on investment. So if you’re going to spend a couple hours or 10 hours or 20 hours, or whatever it is, and maybe some money or leveraging some connections, if you’re going to invest in a particular activity, you want it to generate as much return as possible for that investment that you’ve put into it.

So if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you’re going to figure this out really fast in the next probably three to six months. You’re going to have those things where it looks like a really good opportunity on the front end. Maybe it’s a church that says, “Hey, we’re having a mission fair. Why don’t you come on out and have a table?” And you’re like, “Great. It’s in the right section of town. There’s going to be a ton of people there.” And you go out and do it and then you walk away going, “Well, the people were nice, but I didn’t get any new volunteers and I didn’t get any donations and it just felt like a waste of time.” So you want to make sure that you’re choosing activities, fundraising strategies, that are going to get you the most ROI.

This next one is really important. You want to look for things that are rinse and repeatable. Doing something from scratch takes a lot of effort, and it takes energy, and it takes time, and you want to try to do things that you can rinse and repeat.

So, for example, yesterday was Giving Tuesday. Now, if you participated, you probably learned some things. I was in one of my Facebook groups last night and somebody was commenting that they had a good day and they were at, I don’t know, like 80% or 85% of goal last night. And he said, “I learned several things already that I want to do different next time.” I’m like, “Perfect. That’s what we’re looking for.” We’re looking for things that you can rinse and repeat.

And the nice thing about Giving Tuesday is doesn’t happen again for about six months. So if you did it yesterday and you learned some things, you can rinse and repeat a campaign and do it again later.

I have a lot of clients who are doing $5 Fridays in Facebook. I’m going to talk a little bit more about that later, but that’s a rinse and repeatable activity.

Now, rinse and repeatable doesn’t mean that you do it every week. It may mean that you do it every year. It might mean once a quarter, but it’s something that once you invest the time to put it together the first time, it’s easier the second time because you’re basically just updating some language, you’re updating a landing page, you’re updating a letter, and you’re using it again. And that’s actually going to save you a lot of time, especially if it’s a profitable activity.

You want to choose fundraising that builds your donor family. This one is super important. I didn’t mention earlier about donor-based fundraising, but I really want to put a fine point on it now.

Good fundraising, sustainable, long-term, you’re-in-it-to-win-it fundraising is about building a family of donors around you who love the work your organization does and they want to see you win. They are here to help however they can help, whatever you need. It is the most amazing thing to have that family as a fundraiser. I’ve been there many times. I have lots of clients who have that kind of family right now.

It takes a little while to build that family. Building that family is kind of like building a snowman. You know how the first ball that goes on the bottom, that takes a minute to build? You’ve got to kind of gather up a handful of snow, pack it, put it on the ground, start moving it around the yard. Those first activities, you’re not gaining much traction. But after a while, you’re really starting to pick up snow fast, right? And the ball gets really big really fast.

That’s how your donor family builds as well. It can take a little while to get those first 10, those first 100, those first thousand donors, and then it’s going to start building a lot faster and a lot easier. And the bigger that donor family is, the more money you can raise, the more stable everything is.

I can talk for the next hour about the donor family, but right now understand that if you want to build this for success long-term, you’ve got to pay attention to your donors and build your donor family.

I also want you to choose fundraising that helps you take big steps forward toward your monetary goal for the year. So if your goal for the year is, let’s say, $25,000, you don’t want to do activities that are raising $10 and $15 at a time because that’s exhausting. You want to try to do things that are raising money $1,000, $2,500, $10,000 at a time. You need to think a little bit bigger than you’ve thought before so you can find those activities that are going to move you forward faster toward that goal.

Is this making sense? You want to try to choose fundraising strategies, choose activities, that are going to hit all of these points. Now, you may choose something that hits three of these, but not all of them. That’s fine. You might choose something else later that hits the other two or hits all five of them. That’s fine.

There’s a certain amount of testing that’s going to happen for you right now as you try to figure out what works for you, what works for your organization, which of these things it works, but it’s not as productive as it can be. So there’s an amount of testing that’s going to go on for you, and I want you to really pay attention and I want you to be very curious about a lot of things.

Now, this is sort of my nature. I look at everything that I do or a client does and I go, “Huh, what was that? That is interesting. What can I learn from that?” So one of the clients that I was literally running their Giving Tuesday campaign yesterday, I’m watching what’s happening during the day. I’m watching the number of people that are not just giving, but they’re commenting on the Facebook post and saying, “I donated and shared.” I’m just watching all the little pieces of it and I’m thinking, “Huh, that’s interesting. What can we learn from that? How can we use what we’re learning to make it bigger and better next time?”

So I want you to be very curious about everything you do so that you can figure out, “Is this working?” and maybe you can fan the flames, or, “Is this not working?” and maybe you need to let it go.

You’re going to need to make some fairly quick decisions on some of these things because you don’t want to let a fundraising activity continue on if it is not generating money you need, or it’s not helping you meet any of these other criteria. I want you to be real careful about that. So you’re going to put your detective hat on and get curious about a lot of these things.

I also want to talk about something else that’s really important, especially for young organizations, and that is looking at the kind of fundraising that you’re choosing.

So there are basically two kinds of fundraising out there. There are fundraisers that are transactional in nature, and donor-based fundraising that’s more transformational in nature. They’re different. I wanted to just talk a little bit about some of the differences so that, as you choose what you want to do, you’re aware of what you’re doing.

Now, fundraisers tend to be those one-off activities, maybe where you design some kind of T-shirt, “We’re going to sell 1,000 T-shirts and then we’re going to do blah, blah, blah.” That’s a transaction. People are giving you money, and they’re getting the T-shirt in return. Or if you’re selling candy bars.

Basically, anything you’re selling, that is transactional. While it may raise money for you, if you want to do it again, you’re starting all over. Yeah, you may have people you could go back to who bought a T-shirt last time, but just because they bought a T-shirt last time doesn’t mean they’re going to buy a T-shirt next time. There’s no loyalty in that. There’s no guarantee they’re going to come back.

So fundraisers tend to be what I call one-off activities. It’s a, “Hey, buy your Yankee candle,” and they’re going to donate money to us.

One of the ones I just shake my head about, we call around here, Buffalo Wild Wings Night. A lot of restaurants do that, and I guess it’s going to be different now. Maybe they still can do that. You have some kind of flyer that you have to give the people and they take it to the restaurant that night and then a portion of the proceeds of whatever those people spend comes back to you. You can work really, really hard on those and get maybe $150, $200.

I was on the board for a horse rescue several years ago and the staff wanted to do this, literally Buffalo Wild Wings Night. And so they did it and they kept asking all the board members, “You need to share this. You need to share this.” And I said, “Look, if we can just not do this, I’ll write you the check for $200 myself so we can just be done with this.” I don’t want to do it. It’s too much work. It’s too hard. It’s not enough ROI. It’s not sustainable. We’re not building a donor base. This is not a great use of money. That’s very much a one-off activity.

And you’ve got to be really careful with fundraisers because it’s easy to be all about the money. There are way too many new, and young, and small nonprofits that basically go from one cash infusion to the next. They’re just always looking for the money. They’re just always like, “I just have to have money.” Not a great place to raise money from because it smells desperate, it stinks, and your donors are going to pick up on that really quickly and they’re going to try to figure out, “Why are you so desperate for money? Didn’t you have a plan when you started this nonprofit?”

People are way more savvy and sophisticated now than they used to be and they expect more from nonprofits than they did 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago. They expect you to run an organization well. They expect when they give money that it’s being managed properly and stewarded. So you’ve got to be careful about being all about the money.

And a lot of times with fundraisers, your focus is on right now. “We’ve got to raise this money to pay this vet bill,” “We’ve got to raise this money to get these scholarships funded,” or, “We’ve got to raise this money right now, right now, right now.” It’s a whole lot better if you can do more donor-based fundraising where the things that you do are part of an overall plan.

See, you’re smart. You’re here where we’re talking about planning. It’s the people who are not here I’m a little worried about because they don’t understand the value of looking at the year as a whole and then breaking it into 90-day chunks and understanding how everything fits together.

You see, one of the things we really have to pay attention to in donor-based fundraising is the donor experience. What is it like for the donor when they receive an email from your organization with an update, when they receive a newsletter, when they receive an appeal in the mail? What is their experience?

Do they feel like they’re being pecked to death by a chicken and they’re being asked, asked, asked over and over and over, or do they feel valued? Do they feel like they’re a partner with your organization? Hey, guess which one they’re going to respond more to? Think about for yourself.

Listen, if you’re not giving to another organization, you need to because you need that experience as a donor to feel that feeling of being valued or feel that feeling of, “They only want me for my money.”

I give to a lot of organizations and I can tell you the ones that really pay attention to me as a donor are the ones that I gave to yesterday. They’re the ones that even if I didn’t see their posts, I went and found them and gave to them yesterday because I love them. I love those organizations.

So in fundraising and donor-based fundraising, everything is part of an overall plan. It’s all about the relationship. It is a longer-term focus.

Now, am I saying don’t do the fundraisers? No. It’s perfectly okay to do the fundraisers, but you need to have a balance here. You need to have at least as much transformational fundraising as you do transactional fundraisers, or if it’s going to lean one way, lean more toward the transformation.

By the way, we call it transformational fundraising because when people give, they are changing lives through your organization. People don’t give to you. They give through you to make a difference. They give money, and your organization goes out and changes lives. They want to help you make a difference in the world, and for some people, giving makes them feel better about themselves.

Steven and I were talking a few minutes ago about right now in the middle of the coronavirus, I think one of the reasons that we’re seeing a lot of people give is because there’s such a lack of a sense of control. We don’t have control over a whole lot in our lives right now and it leaves us feeling uncomfortable and on edge, and we’re irritable. And when we can find anything that we have a sense of control over, we’re grabbing onto it.

Making a donation is something that we have control over right now. We can choose which organizations we want to give to. We can choose how much to give. And if you do a really, really good job of thanking people after they give, they’re going to give again. This is good news.

So hopefully, this is all making sense to you, that you’ve got to be careful what kind of fundraising that you’re doing.

Now, here are some really common first activities. And it’s really interesting if you think about why these are common. Bake sales, car washes, spaghetti dinners, T-shirts sales, candy bar sales, why are these common? Well, if you’ve never had any kind of fundraising training, this is what you’ve seen before. You’ve done some of this as a teenager. You’ve participated in some of this in grade school. You’ve seen this stuff before, right?

We tend to gravitate toward what we’re familiar with when we don’t know what else to do. This is why a lot of times if you ask your board for ideas for fundraising, they’re going to do the same thing. They’re going to gravitate to what they have seen before.

Now, here’s what I want you to notice though. What do all of these have in common? They’re very transactional, aren’t they? It’s those one-off kind of activities that we were just talking about a minute ago.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with these, but you don’t want this to be the basis of your fundraising plan. You want to make sure that you have transformational activities in your fundraising plan so that you are building your donor base and taking care of those donors and becoming their favorite charity. What you want to strive for is become their favorite.

Now, these can also be really unprofitable at first. So these are some other things. Around here, we call these broken funding models for new nonprofits because they don’t really work.

Things like GoFundMe, there are a lot of people that think, “We’ll just post about our nonprofit on GoFundMe and we’ll raise everything we need.” Well, it doesn’t really work that way because nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “I feel like giving some money away. I think I’ll go find GoFundMe and see if I can’t find some good cause.” People don’t do that. You get occasional people who will cruise through sites like GoFundMe looking for an organization to support, but not many. That’s not it.

If you set up on a crowdfunding site like GoFundMe, you’re still going to have to ask people to go there and give. So it’s not really profitable at first.

Grants are not a good idea when your nonprofit is new, number one, because most foundations want to see three to five years of stable program delivery under your belt before they want to invest in your organization. And if you think about it, it makes sense. If you have money to give away, are you going to give the money to the organization that has proven that what they’re trying to do works, or are you going to give your money to somebody who’s brand new that has no track record at all? Yeah. So grants are not a good idea.

Now, is it impossible? No. It is possible. I mean, I have grant writers on my staff and we have gotten grants for brand new organizations before, but it is the exception and not the rule.

So I would recommend, if you’re interested in grants, go do the research and see what’s available and what they’re looking for, and then start working toward building that experience so that when you hit the three-year mark or the five-year mark you’re ready to apply. But you’re probably not going to get grants right off the bat.

Rich people. Another one that makes me laugh. If you think, “Well, we’ll just go find the rich people in town, they’ll give,” it doesn’t really work that way. People don’t give based on their wealth. They give based on your value. I’ll say that again so you can write it down. People don’t give based on their wealth. They give based on your value.

People give to organizations they like. They give to causes that resonate with them, that really land in their heart. And so targeting people based on household income, not a great idea. You’re going to be really disappointed. So don’t try to rent a list in the most ritzy part of town and send them a letter. You’re not going to get the results you’re looking for. There are much better and much more lower-hanging pieces of fruit out there for you. Don’t target rich people.

Self-funding, not a great idea. We’ve had some clients who have done this where basically they’re paying for everything out of their own pocket. If you’re independently wealthy, I guess that can work for a while, but it’s not going to last forever. So okay to pay for some stuff yourself, but we need to get you some fundraising going.

Social media is a tricky one, because this is actually going to show up here and it’s going to show up someplace else. It can be unprofitable at first, because literally, if you start a Facebook page . . . we had an organization earlier this year, brand new, they actually didn’t have their 501(c)(3) yet when we started Facebook for them, and literally, the first person was the client, the second person was me, and people number 3 through 5 were the rest of my staff, and then 5 to 10 were her friends. And so we started building that following.

Well, if your Facebook following is you and your friends, then that’s going to be a little hard to raise money until you start building that following. Again, it’s back to that snowball. It takes a minute to build it, but once it does, then it can be really, really effective.

So just keep that in mind, that if you think, “Well, we’re just going to post on Facebook and people are going to find us and they’re going to give,” it doesn’t really work quite that way.

So be careful of all of these things.

Now, what should you be focusing on? Let’s talk about that. What to focus on first for best results? This should not surprise you. Building your supporter family.

One of my clients is based in Florida. They have a farm animal sanctuary and they also do humane education. And about six months ago, we were having this conversation about how do you build your donor family? And she said, “Well, I’ve got a bunch of friends that always ask me about the nonprofit, but they don’t give.” And I said, “And have you asked them to give?” And she was like, “Well, no, but . . .” She had all these reasons why she didn’t want to ask them.

I’m going to guess that some of you probably feel this way too. She wasn’t comfortable asking her friends because she didn’t want them to support her.

I said, “Listen, when you’re asking them to support, ask them for support for the organization and the animals and the children that you’re serving. This is not about you. You have to take you out of it. This is about the nonprofit and the work the nonprofit is doing.”

That one shift made all the difference for her and she was able to take herself out of it and realize that she could start messaging friends and saying, “Hey, we’re trying to raise money for,” fill in the blank, whatever it was. It was a visitation day, or it was to take care of these farm animals, or to sponsor the pig, or books for the first graders in town, whatever that looked like. And people got really excited about it and they told her they were happy to give. They were happy to support. Then she asked again and they gave again.

And by now, after asking this friend, that friend, and those friends asked some other friends, and those friends asked some other friends, and now she’s really starting to see the snowball grow and she’s able to relax a little bit and just do more sharing about the animals and what’s happening on the sanctuary. It’s really taking off.

So if that’s helpful for you, take that away. When you’re asking for money, this is not about you. This is about the work your nonprofit is doing or going to do, not about you.

So don’t be shy to ask friends and family to join your donor base. If they don’t want to, they won’t give. It’s okay. You don’t need to feel embarrassed about it. But you do need to ask them because this is how it’s going to get started.

The next thing I want you to focus on is some small specific online campaigns, especially on Facebook. Facebook is such a good place for almost everybody to raise money right now because the audience that’s on Facebook tends to be ideal donor prospects for an awful lot of people.

So this actually is a screenshot from this organization I was just talking about. And what they have been doing is some really small, very specific online campaign. So instead of getting on Facebook and saying, “Hey, give. We’re a good organization,” they’re raising money for very specific things.

So she’s probably taken in two horses in the last four months, which if you aren’t familiar with horse rescue, that can be an expensive proposition because sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting with a horse. They could come in, look okay on the outside, and an event shows up and you’ve got all kinds of issues that are very expensive to deal with.

So she did a campaign on Facebook to raise $2,000 to cover all the initial vet care, farrier care. I think this specific course, she knew she had some dental issues and so forth. And so she knew it was going to be about $2,000, so she did this really specific campaign, invited people to give, and she wound up raising . . . I don’t think you can see in the picture, but it was $2,030 of what she raised. So she actually went over her goal.

She has shared with me and some others that one of the things that really made that work is not only did she create this fundraiser on Facebook, but she started messaging specific friends and family and saying, “Hey, we’re trying to raise money to take care of this horse. If you want to help, here’s the link.” And so she was working her connections and moving people toward these specific campaigns and people were giving. Now what she’s found after doing a handful of those is that it’s so much easier to raise money on Facebook, and her following has grown substantially.

So small, specific campaigns can be super helpful. They’ve got to be specific though. They’ve got to be something like . . . not just, “Hey, give us $10,000 just because. Our goal is 10,000. Help us reach the goal.” There’s nothing motivational about that. You want to ask people to help you do something specific for your organization.

The other thing that I would want you to focus on right now, and it may seem a little crazy, is monthly giving. Monthly giving is a hot thing for anybody. When you get people who want to give you an amount of money and they commit to doing it every month, that can add up really, really fast.

I was really surprised yesterday, the Giving Tuesday campaign that I was running for a client, we actually had two people not just make a donation, but sign up for monthly giving yesterday. I was like, “Whoa. Well, that’s surprising and exciting. We’ll take that all day long.” It can be very powerful.

So I’ve shown you on the screen here a snippet from a website from a client. This is an animal shelter in Southeast Missouri. And one of the things that I’ve had them do, and I always do this with clients, is we calculate what’s called a core number. Now, this can be tough if you’re brand new. Instead of using actual expenses, you’re going to have to use projections.

The gist of it is to figure out what your unit of service is that you’re delivering, whether that’s a day of care for an animal, it’s a hot meal for the homeless, or it’s a night’s sleep for the homeless, whatever that looks like. It could be an hour of counseling, an hour of afterschool tutoring, one hour of musical performance. You’re there in the theater for three hours, and one hour is a unit of service. You figure that out and you divide all your expenses by the total units of service, and it’ll give you how much it costs you to deliver one unit of service. There’s a whole article on my blog that explains more about this. We call it Core Number.

Here’s the hot thing about when you calculate your core number. You can use it to ask people to give. You see these numbers in the blue box that says $10.60 per month provides one day of care? Well, we’ve calculated that. We know that it cost them $10.60 on average to provide a day’s worth of shelter, food, vaccinations, and medical care, and love, and play time, and toys and all that too, to a dog or a cat that’s in their shelter.

And if you look at that and you go, “It’s kind of a weird number. Why isn’t it $11 even?” We want it to be a weird number. When it’s a weird number, people go, “Huh, you actually calculated that.” And there’s a piece of trust that sparks immediately because they know you know your numbers. You’re taking this seriously.

So asking people to give a monthly gift to provide a day of care, to provide that one unit of service, that can add up really fast.

When I first started working with this client, they just had a handful of monthly donors and we were very purposeful in growing it over the year. And by the end of the year, they had . . . I want to say it was about $3,000 a month coming in from monthly donations. And I’ve done that with other clients too.

So even if your organization is new or really young, you can start monthly giving and you can get monthly donors. The really nice thing is it gives you a revenue base to work from. So just imagine as you’re building your organization and you’re bringing in monthly donors, maybe even it’s just a handful this month and a handful next month, it builds up over time. And before you know it, you have half of the revenue you need every month coming from your monthly donors. See how awesome that is? It just gives you peace of mind and you can rest and sleep at night.

All right. One more step to get through and then I want to start seeing what all the questions are. I see you guys are popping them in. Thank you for doing that.

Step 3 is to chunk it up and write it down. So once you start thinking about all the things you want to do during the year, then you want to start looking at it in terms of 90 days at a time. And there are some reasons for that.

You want to create something for yourself kind of like this. This is what I call the 90-day action plan. And actually, I have this as a download. I’m going to give you the link in just a minute so you can literally go download this and use this. It works really well.

Now, you can see that there are several things on here. There’s a column for what you’re going to do to add new donors, and what you’re going to do to spread the word about your organization, and what you’re going to do to create what I call warm touches in communications.

Warm touches are those things you’re going to do that are going to make the donor go, “Oh, I love that nonprofit. That’s awesome.” And that could be a video update. It could be a phone call to thank them. It could be a lot of things, but it’s basically anything that just really touches them right in the heart and they go, “Whoa, that’s awesome.” That’s part of what pulls donors closer and keeps them close to your organization.

And you want to think about what you’re going to be doing to ask people to give.

Now, if you use this action plan, what you’re going to see is it gives you a space to think about all these things every week for 12 weeks and to make sure that you are balancing out those asks so you’re not just showing up saying, “Give me, give me, give me,” all the time, but you’re doing other things that are going to make the donor feel really good about your organization.

So, again, I’ve got this. I’m going to give you a link in just a second. This is a download, so you don’t have to start from scratch on this. And everybody said, “Yay.”

Why 90 days? Well, several reasons. Things change really fast around here. Have you guys figured that out? And right now, particularly, while the world is in crisis, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, much less this fall or next year. So by taking this in a 90-day chunk, it gives you a much more reasonable time to try to plan for, and then when you get toward the end of that 90 days, then you can look out for the next 90 days and try to plan that 90 days.

So if you take this 90 days at a time, it keeps you from trying to lay out just plans that you’re pulling out of the air, frankly. Things change really fast.

On a good day, without a coronavirus crisis, things change really fast in life and things can change really fast for your nonprofit. It’s easier to focus on a small chunk and you can make adjustments a whole lot faster to your plan when you take it in the small chunk. So that’s why we want to do only 90 days at a time.

Really, that’s about all you can see right now, anyway. What’s going to happen for the next three months? It just keeps you from biting off more than you can chew and to really focus on the things that you put on your calendar so you can get them done.

I’ve got some planning tips for you. You’re going to want to write a couple of these down. One is I want you to schedule backwards. Schedule it backwards. Here’s what that means.

Now, we have a lot of really methodical thinkers around here. My team is a group of people that we like to start at Step 1 and then move to Step 2 and move to Step 3 and so forth. I know not everybody’s like that. Some people like to start on Step 5 and then move to 10 and then back to 3 and then over 5, and it’s kind of crazy.

When you’re planning, if you really want a good plan, you need to account for everything. You need to really think about all the things that need to happen in order for that activity to take place.

So what I want you to do is schedule backwards. And what that looks like is to start with the date of the event or the date you want to actually hit send on your email, the date that you’re actually going to post on Facebook. Start with that date and then ask yourself, “What needs to happen the day before in order for that thing to happen on that date?” And write that down and put that on the calendar.

And then back and say, “Okay. What needs to happen the day before that in order for things to happen?” And then you keep going until you get all the way back to the day that you need to start thinking about it or start planning. It’s a really handy planning tool. It’s a backward scheduling.

We actually do backward scheduling along with something that I call the sticky note method. And the sticky note method . . . this is really funny and we laugh at ourselves all the time, but as internet-based as Get Fully Funded is, we do our planning on paper calendars on the wall.

If I were to turn, right here on the wall behind me, there are eight of these giant paper calendars on the wall and we use a sticky method, and we backward-schedule at the same time we’re using stickies. We do color code them, so different colors mean different things.

But what this allows us to do is have some flexibility. So if we say, “We want to we want to have this webinar on December 30th,” or December 16th, or April 20th, or whatever the day, we start there and then we take sticky notes and on each sticky note, we write one step that needs to happen in order for that webinar to happen or that activity to happen on that particular day.

So you take your sticky notes and you write one step per sticky. You put the date that the activity is going to happen on the calendar, and then you start looking at all your stickies and you think, “Okay. This one needs to go on this date. This needs to go here.” And you just start putting them on the wall calendar.

Now, the nice thing about that is if you do this with all the activities you have planned for 90 days, you’re going to see really fast where things are clumping up and you’re going to see where there’s a blank spot.

So, literally, if you wanted to do this, I would recommend you get yourself about four different colors of stickies, and put your asks in green and your warm touches and communications in a different color, maybe yellow, and put your . . . Just put everything in a different color so that you can see them on the calendar. If you have too much green and not enough other stuff, then you need to be adjusting that a little bit.

So the sticky note method helps you just kind of manage what’s going on, on your calendar, but then also do the backward scheduling at the same time so that you’re not missing steps.

One thing that happens a lot with a lot of my clients . . . and they’re really funny. They’re sheepish about it. They’ll hang their head and they go, “Yeah, we just didn’t start planning far enough in advance.” Because they know what I’m going to say: “Where’s your calendar and did you backward-schedule it?”

If you take the time to do this . . . and I know not everybody is this detail-oriented. If this is not a strength for you, get yourself a volunteer or somebody who can help you manage this level of detail to get it on the calendar.

Once you do, then you can start writing down and putting these individual pieces and parts on your to-do list so that you can stay organized and you’re getting things done without working at the last minute, without burning the midnight oil. And that’s really where you want to be. Nothing done at the last minute is done well typically, so you want to make sure you start with plenty of time.

Then you also want to think about the what, who, and when for everything that you’re putting on the calendar. So not just “We need to write a story for the newsletter,” but “Who’s going to write that story, and when is it due, and what exactly are you going to cover?” So you want to get into a lot of detail when you’re looking at action plans.

The final thing is you want to build in some accountability. It is one thing to have a plan. If you don’t have it written down, it’s not real. It’s in your head and it’s too easy for it to get mushy. If nobody else knows about the plan, nobody can hold you accountable.

So I recommend even if it’s just you, you’re the only person in your organization, get yourself a volunteer, a peer, a friend, a mentor, somebody that you can say, “Here’s my fundraising plan. Do you mind to meet with me once a month and let’s just talk through it?” You need somebody who knows what you are planning to do that can say, “Did you get that done? What happened to that thing you were planning to do?” Because it’s so easy when things get hectic, we go, “That’s not going to happen.” We push it off to the side.

Sometimes that’s okay, and sometimes that’s really not okay. If your newsletter is your main vehicle for communicating with your donors and you keep pushing that off, that means you’re not communicating with your donors and that means they’re going to start feeling like all you do is show up and ask. Not a good thing. So build in some accountability.

We have covered a lot today. What have you learned? I would love for you to think about specifically what are your big takeaways from today. If you want to type those in into the chat box, I would love to see that.

And then I want to give you this, because I did promise you that 90-day action plan. So you can go grab this right now in a download. There are actually two worksheets in there I think you’re going to really like.

The one is that 90-day action plan that I showed you a second ago, and the other one is what we call a summary calendar and it’ll help you look at your year at a glance. That may be a little hard your first year. It’ll be easier your second year, and by about Year 3, you’re going to go, “I love this tool.”

So all you have to do is go to Put your name and email in there and you’re going to get immediate download.

All right. Let’s look at the questions.

Steven: Yeah. We’ve got some good ones, Sandy. But first, I just want to say thanks for doing this for us. There was so much good information. I love hearing from you. And I know you’ve got a meeting to run to at 2:00, so I won’t keep you long, but I’ll leave this on the screen.

We got a bunch of questions in here. I’m going to ask my own first, if you don’t mind, Sandy. I’m going to bogart things. I’m going to ask you the question I’ve been asking all of our webinar guests over the past two months. If someone here is thinking, “Well, I love to do all these things, but we’re not the right type of cause right now. We’re not human services. We’re not feeding hungry people,” what do you say to those folks? I’ve heard a lot of that and seen a lot of that chatter around and I try to push back on it when I can. What’s your take on that?

Sandy: I think that if you don’t see the sex appeal in your own nonprofit, nobody else will. So you have to know why your organization matters and why it deserves people’s support. Because if you don’t get it, you can’t verbalize it and people are not going to figure it out for themselves. Every cause is worthy of support. Every cause. You just have to be very clear about why your cause deserves support.

Steve: I love it. A lot of people were asking about Giving Tuesday. We’re recording this today after Giving Tuesday. And you talked a lot about planning. When should people start thinking about November? It’s May 6 now, but when do you kind of kick into gear for Giving Tuesday with your clients?

Sandy: I think Giving Tuesday is early December this year. I normally start nudging people in August, like, “You need to start thinking about this.” You need to start thinking about it in August because you want to pick the right thing to ask people to give to. It doesn’t mean initially you need to do anything in August, but you need to start thinking about it.

And then by about the 1st of October, you need to start really putting your plans together. You need to be thinking about are there any donor nurturing activities you need to do between then and Giving Tuesday in order to really make people feel good about their supporting your organization?

And then you also want to think about what are you asking people to give to. What creative materials you need to create? Do you need to put some images together? If you need to write some emails? And then plan out where you’re going to post, when you’re going to post. So it takes a minute to put all that together.

The nice thing is if you start working on that at the 1st of October and something happens and you don’t actually get to it until the end of October, you’ve still got plenty of time. You’re fine.

Steven: Cool. Sandy, we’ve had a few people ask about business relationships. I noticed you mentioned a couple of times about maybe restaurant nights. What do you recommend folks do when they want to first create those business relationships? I mean, you live in a small town. I’m sure a lot of people here can relate. Is it just knocking on doors, talking to restaurant owners? What should people be doing there?

Sandy: It is all about the relationship. So if some of you were thinking, “Well, I’m just going to go get the list from the local chamber of commerce and I’m going to write everybody a letter and we’re going to get support from businesses,” don’t bother. It’s not going to happen. That’s cold calling and it doesn’t work.

What works is for you to think about you know at local businesses, or who do you know that knows somebody? So you want to leverage a connection. If you can find a connection on the inside, especially of a big company or a big corporation, that is your best path in because that’s a warm lead. That’s way better than a cold lead. And that’s how you’re going to be able to find out about, “What’s the company’s process, and how do they decide who they’re going to give money to? Is there a deadline?”

One of the banks in my area . . . it’s kind of a known thing among fundraisers. If you want to ask first Tennessee Bank, you better get your request in before September 1st, because after that . . . And that’s for the next year. After September 1st, they start working on their budget. They make all their decisions. So right now, they’ve made their commitments. It’s done for the year.

Steven: Interesting. I don’t know if you noticed this, Sandy, but I have noticed that there are a lot of sponsorship dollars out there right now that need to be allocated somewhere. And I’m not talking about . . . there are obviously hard hit restaurants and businesses, but there are things like banks and maybe other things that aren’t feeling that pinch. I think your outreach could prove useful there, too.

Well, we’re about out of time, and I don’t want to keep you past the hour, Sandy. We didn’t get to all the questions. Would you be willing to maybe take some questions offline, or how can people get ahold of you?

Sandy: Yeah. If anybody has additional questions, there’s a couple of ways, and I should have put this on the screen. We do have a free Facebook group for founders, so you want to come find us. It’s called Fundraising for Founders, and you can join that Facebook group and ask questions. I’m in there every day, happy to answer questions.

And honestly, what I could do is take all these questions and hop over and do a Facebook Live and answer some of the rest of them in that group. I’m happy to do that. So look for Fundraising for Founders in Facebook and you’ll find the group. We’ll get you in there.

And if you’ve got more specific questions and you want to reach out to us, you can get on and you’ll find . . . there’s a contact form. Fill that out. There’s also our phone number and email and all that. And we’re happy for you to reach out to us.

Steven: Yeah, join that group. That’s the one I was talking about at the beginning. I put the link in the chat, Sandy, so hopefully folks will join that one. There’s like 2,000 people in there, right? That’s a lot of people.

Sandy: Yeah, it’s a big group. And it’s a good group. There are a lot of people in there who have some experience, and even sometimes it’s so nice to have somebody who’s three steps ahead of you that you can say, “What was the first thing you did after you got your 501(c)(3)?” And there will be like 15 people that will jump in and say, “Oh, yeah. You can do this and do that.”

Steven: Yeah. All these threads have like 30 comments, 27 comments, and people talking to each other. It’s really cool. So that’s a good one.

Sandy, this was awesome. Thanks for doing this for us. It wasn’t the original topic and you were nice enough to kind of pivot for us since we’re in a weird world now, but thank you. This was awesome.

Sandy: Great.

Steven: And thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know you’re probably pretty busy and got a lot going on, but it was fun to see 200 or 300 people in here.

I’ll send out the slides, recording. We’ll get you all the good stuff. Just be on the lookout for an email from me. But until then, hopefully we’ll see you again on another Bloomerang webinar. Just check out our webinar page. We’ve got a webinar tomorrow. We got one Friday. We got some good stuff coming down the pipeline, so it doesn’t have to be the last session for it.

But we’ll call it a day there. Have a good rest of your Wednesday. Stay safe, please. We’re all thinking about you, and hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Sandy: Bye.


Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.