A Fundraiser’s Journey: Saying Thanks

Kelly picKelly Updike for PCNRC, A Fundraiser’s Journey series

I have a confession to make.

Once upon a time I did not say thank-you to a donor. It’s a complicated story that I won’t bore you with here but the summary is that the donor was extremely angry, I was mortified and my organization nearly lost the gift.


I learned, the hard way, the first rule of fundraising: No matter what, first, always, simply, say thanks.

Here’s the low-down on the highlights of thanking each person who makes a gift of any sort to your organization.

  • Be quick about it. You should aim to send a thank-you notification within 48 hours.
  • Be formal at least once. Donors who make tax-deductible gifts should receive a letter that can be used for tax reporting purposes.
  • Rinse and repeat. Say thank-you more than once and you will stand out from the crowd. I once received three different thank-you communications for the same gift – wow, I gave again the next year, happily and eagerly.
  • Mean it. Be personal and personable, be sincere and specific. Briefly describe how the gift makes a difference to your organization.
  • Give it some flair. Hey, share some of your nonprofit passion and creativity. Use email, video, photos, text messages and handwritten notes.
  • Make it a party. Involve others in saying thank-you, including volunteers and board members. Have a thank-you-letter signing party. Give a two-sentence telephone script to board members and ask them to thank a few donors. Simone Joyaux writing in the Dec. 6, 2014, issue of Nonprofit Quarterly, suggests that making a call is currently an under-used method and thus a pleasant surprise to donors.

So, take a cue from Elvis and say, “Thank you. Thank you very much.”

The Nonprofit Quarterly article mentioned above can be found at this link.

The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

Women Give 2014 | The Women’s Philanthropy Institute

New Research on Women, Religion and Giving

The Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy recently released Women Give 2014.

The report details a meaningful shift in religious-based giving, specifically in regards to young, single women who are religiously unaffiliated.

The religiosity-giving relationship, which has been assumed to be the same regardless of gender and age, is a more complex relationship than previously thought. For the first time, this research examines the intersection of religiosity, gender, and age in a single analysis and finds a significant change in patterns of giving. In an important shift from the standard religiosity-giving story found in most previous research, young single women who are religiously unaffiliated – the ”Nones” – give roughly two times larger amounts to charitable organizations than women who are affiliated but infrequently attend religious services.

Why the Shifting Landscape Matters Continue reading

A Fundraiser’s Journey: Why We Give

Kelly picKelly Updike for PCNRC, A Fundraiser’s Journey series

In doing some research for this month’s blog topic – despite my reputation as a (bad) jokester, I do try to not make it up! – I discovered there is a science to giving.

In “Philanthropy and the Brain: Why Doing Good Feels Good,” in the July 2014 issue of The Rotarian, author Laurence Gonzales reports on separate studies in the 1980s that showed giving to charity causes mid-brain activity, increases in a hormone called oxytocin and releases of the neurotransmitter dopamine, “the chemical centerpiece of the reward system.”

In addition, scientists determined that empathy is a biological function and comes from cells called mirror neurons in our brains.

What all these science-y words mean is that when we help someone, “we get a big emotional payoff,” according to Gonzales. He further reports that faces are the most powerful conveyors of a person’s emotional state.

Earlier this month, on Nov. 5, National Public Radio broadcasted a story by Shankar Vedantam on a study that found people gave to help a starving child but did not donate when they learned how many millions suffer from starvation.

These studies point out the importance of connecting with people. And to tell donors how their gifts make an impact in the community.

We have really cool jobs — we help people feel great by telling them in person how their donations will specifically help our organizations. (For example, say to them how many marquee light bulbs will be repaired or how many children get fed or whatever details you can itemize, thanks to their gifts.) And then we get to watch their faces light up, we get to share that moment with them, when they donate!

The NPR story is at:


The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Embassy or the PCNRC.

A Fundraiser’s Journey: End of Year Asks

Kelly picKelly Updike for PCNRC, A Fundraiser’s Journey series

Tree leaves are turning gold and red, lying in small piles on the still-green lawn. This pretty picture outside means it’s time to be inside planning your end-of-year solicitation letter!

A lot of gifts are made at the end of each calendar year. Here’s your checklist on making a great impact and standing out from the crowd:

  •  Clean up your mailing list. No list? Create one by listing everyone on whom you have an impact, from your board to your vendors. Now and in the past. Look up all their contact information. Be sure to use actual names, as you need to personalize each letter.
  • Set a goal. You should always have a plan in mind. What if you raised $3,000 from this appeal? What would you do with it? Tell this to the donors. You also should keep track of the costs you incur from this project and strive for revenue that is much more than expenses.

Continue reading

A Fundraiser’s Journey: Take Stock, Start Small

Kelly picKelly Updike , a Fundraiser’s Journey blogger for PCNRC

Take stock, start small

In the beginning, there was a list of members and it was in Excel.

We thought it was a decent list, about 400 names. Not too many email addresses, some name duplications. Oh, and a couple of people on it were deceased.

Besides writing grants for building projects, an annual membership program was our only fundraising tactic. When someone, once or twice a year, would mail a check as a flat-out, out-of-nowhere gift, we didn’t know what to do with it. We thought our only way of recording the gift, so as not to lose the contact information, was to make the donor a member. We didn’t even have gifts or donations as a line-item in the budget.

But we knew there was a big wide world of fundraising out there and we wanted to join it. We wanted to be professional fundraisers who ask for money and get it! We wanted to play with the big kids! Continue reading

Giving USA 2014 – The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2013

Last week, the 59th consecutive edition of Giving USA, the seminal annual report on charitable giving in America, compiled by Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy was released. 

At an estimated $335.17 billion, total charitable giving from U.S. individuals, corporations, foundations and bequests in 2013 approached the peak seen before the worst of the Great Recession, adjusted for inflation, according to research released today by Giving USA Foundation and its research partner, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Other highlights include:

  • Total estimated U.S. charitable giving increased by 4.4%
  • Total giving has increased 22.0 percent since the official end of the recession in 2009 (12.3 percent when adjusted for inflation)
  • In 2013 per capita giving by U.S. adults reached $1016, and average U.S. household giving reached $2974

Thom Andrews, director of ONEPlace – Kalamazoo Public Library’s Organization for Nonprofit Excellence ties this research into research by author and fundraising consultant and researcher Penelope Burke on Fundraising and summarizes your action steps on this information quite succinctly in his recent post Retain for Gain:

“It may be time to evaluate your donor retention efforts. You can’t afford not to.”

Topline Considerations from Giving USA 2014 about Donors: Continue reading

Corporate Social Responsibility and Citizenship – a Public Relations perspective from PRSA on June 19

Lanah K. Hake, panelist for upcoming PRSA meetup

Have you heard of the PRSA Hoosier Chapter’s Fort Wayne Meetups?

The brainchild of Peter Schnellenberger, the meetups are aimed at connecting Fort Wayne’s talented Public Relations professionals. Because the topic hits home for nonprofits, Peter reached out to us about the upcoming June 19 PRSA meetup, “Corporate Citizenship: Fad or Differentiator?” (Register here)

Peter encouraged us to speak with panelist Lanah Hake Tarango, founder of LanahLink Social Impact Solutions, to learn more about the topic and how it applies to you.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Well, there is a range of semantics and vocabulary used to define this growing concept. It includes terms like Social Impact, Social Return on Investment, Triple Bottom Line, Strategic Community investment, and Corporate Citizenship.

A basic definition would be “helping business understand community impact with both internal and external relationships.” These include considering things from where the money goes to where materials come from and more.

We have more official definitions, like the one from the Harvard Kennedy School, but mostly this is what we’re talking about.

Fundamentally, it’s a shift from thinking of business in isolation to seeing the ripple effect of a business’s decisions and relationships in a local community and even globally.

When strategic, [CSR] has an opportunity to maximize both community outcomes, investment and enhance branding, talent attraction, staff engagement and a range of other desirable outcomes for business.

And we’re talking about the full range of businesses doing CSR – from one-person shops to $50 million corporations.

What role can nonprofits play in CSR?  Continue reading