Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sean's blog is moving...

Hi folks!

I've recently launched a new website:

No biggie, I just wanted to have all of my blogs, tips, articles and newsletters all in one place.

This means that, apart from maybe the odd personal blog post from me, going forwards all of my blogs will be found on

I've been using Blogger for years now to share all of the proven fundraising knowledge and non-profit marketing insight I've learned over the decades. I've also used it to share new tips and advice for charity marketing whilst travelling around the world and mentoring non-profits.

I've enjoyed reaching out to the community on here and sharing knowledge with many of you.

If you want to continue to read more of this good stuff, please head on over to:

And thank you for reading!


Thursday, September 1, 2016

What is the best language to use when building relationships with your Mid and Major Donors?

I've been sharing a lot of tips and material about mid and major donors lately. And this got me thinking, what's the best language to use when talking to and trying to build relationships with these donors? Equally, are there words that we should avoid using? Words that might turn them off? 

Are there words we shouldn't be using? 

In Fraser Greens' book, 3D Philanthropy, Fraser talks about mood killing words - those words that you really shouldn't use when talking to donors, of any kind.

In an old, (but still very relevant!) blog post, Katya Andresen talks about these 'mood killing words' in detail - and they're as relevant to major donors as they are to others. View the blog post, and the words to avoid in detail here!

These words include:

1. Capacity 
2. Empower
3. Enhance
4. Indigenous
5. Partnership
6. Development
7. Systemic
8. Community
9. Innovation
10. Superlative
11. Outcomes
12. Support
13. Sustainable
14. Resources
15. Dignity
16. Facilitate
17. Diversity
18. Fostering

Katya goes on to summarise the deadliest combination of words and phrases to turn off donors too, e.g. 'facilitating outcomes.' 

So what should we be saying to our major donors?

I've spoken to charities about this before and some have claimed if they took the above words out of their pitches and messaging to donors, there would be nothing left to write.

I beg to differ.

I think the best language to use when engaging with major donors is language similar to their own. Preferably, language that they use everyday.

When engaging with donors, on any level, we need to be able to use the same everyday language that they use, in order to engage with their hearts.

With mid and major donors, in particular, we're trying to persuade them to part with a significant amount of money to help our beneficiaries. 

Why everyday language?

1. We need to ignite a passion in potential donors        and, in order to get major donors passionate            about our cause, they need to be able to relate        to it on a human level.
2. We need to engage with and build relationships with    these donors - and the best way to do that is to        relate to them on their level.
3. Major donor relationships tend to be built up over a    lengthier period of time. It's therefore more likely    that we'll be able to keep a dialogue going with        them and keep them engaged if we use everyday          language.
4. Using everyday language is particularly important      when engaging in face to face meetings and phone        calls with donors. It lends a human touch to our        fundraising team.
5. It's also easier for one person to sustain and build    a relationship with their donors on a personal and      human level if they're using language that the          donors are used to and that doesn't make them come      across as false or phony.
6. It makes us sound more sincere.
7. We usually think of making approaches to major          donors through personal introductions or one to one    conversations, but you do need to remember your        potential major donors are searching for you online    too. So, from a digital marketing point of view,        using everyday language that people are more likely    to use, can massively help you and your cause when      it comes to search engine rankings and being found      on Google too! 

Should we avoid formal, business language altogether?

There is a flip side to the coin to consider...

Mid and major donors are often professionals, quite often business people, who are looking for the best return on investment for their donations, in terms of what their money will support and achieve.

More often than not, these donors are results driven. It stands to reason then, that there may need to be a balance in the language we use when communicating with them.

To some degree, more formal, business professional language may need to be used in order to get across the aims of your cause and the benefits of investing in it. Particularly when you're pitching to major gift donors.

It may make sense to pepper the conversation with business and professional terms that they are familiar with.  

Don't overcomplicate things and keep your communication jargon free as different industries will have different levels of knowledge.

Don't bamboozle them with long, formal phrases or embarrass them by using overcomplicated words that they won't understand.

How do we do this?

Firstly, when doing research on your major donors, or indeed those mid level donors whom you'd like to convert to major gifts,think about 'language'.

What sort of words, language and even tone of voice do they use on their website? And in their emails? Is it professional and business-like? Or is their tone more warm and friendly? Perhaps they use a different tone in their emails to what they do on their website?

Secondly, meet them in person or at the very least chat to them on the phone. And when you do, observe the language and words they use. Where possible try to mirror it.
Final word.

Whilst it's great to come across as professional in business correspondence, it's best to match the tone and mirror some of the everyday words that your major donors use.

Instead, talk to them, mirror their language. Use words that will appeal to their human nature and ignite their passion for your cause.

And yes, at some point, particularly if you're presenting a formal proposal for supporting your cause, you may need to pepper your pitch with some of the professional, more formal words to help win your business case. 

See you soon!


PS Click here if you haven't already registered for my next webinar:

Live on Thurs 29th Sept / Friday 30th Sept (depending on your time zone), but the recording and slides will be available for all who register - even if you can't make the date.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Great Way to Boost Donations in Your Next Appeal…

...And Build Awesome Relationships With Major Donors

I have a little story about Jason Smith, a quiet and unassuming Quebecois guy living in Melbourne, Australia.  He works as the fundraising manager at Burnet Institute.

The Institute is a charity dedicated to researching diseases that cause harm to people in less developed countries.  It is one of my favourite charities, partly because Jason works there and is an easy guy to get behind and support, but also because of it’s unique mission.

However, the Institute’s fundraising is relatively small with a database of just around 7,000 people who donated in the past year or so.

For their mid-year appeal, Jason and his colleague Asther Creo ran a classic direct mail appeal to their donors.

Shortly after the appeal had been mailed Jason met with a ‘mid value’ donor – someone who had, with their partner, donated $4,000 in 2015.  I’ll call the donor Bernadette because it kind of works with the charity name.

Bernadette told him she was keen on ‘stretching’ her (and her partner’s) donation to have more impact.  So Jason and Bernadette agreed that a special communication would go out to donors.

The message was simple ‘One of our supporters has offered to match your gift up to $50,000.’

With time short, the campaign was run as part of the second ‘wave’ of mid-year appeal.  Basically a follow up letter to the original appeal.

Jason told me; “the matched gift offer boosted results and the campaign raised an extraordinary $326,000 (including the $50,000 donation).  About $150,000 came in after we went out with the offer – it definitely got a lot of traction out there.”

Although the matched offer would have done better as a letter earlier, this is still a great study of delivering what a mid value donor wanted – and lifting them into the major donor zone.

By the way, if you're interested in how you can turn your mid level donors into major gift donors - you should join my next webinar, where we'll give you more details and a process on how to do this.

Click here to register for 'The Quickest, Cheapest and Easiest Way to Earn Extra Cash Now, Turn Mid Value Donors into Major Gifts In a Week.'

This webinar will be live on 29th / 30th September (various time zones are available),  however even if you can't make the date the recording and slides will be available for all who register.

Like many fundraisers, Jason is keen to expand his knowledge and understanding of fundraising.  In particular, he has gained lots of good tips and knowledge from Pareto, our blogs and my webinars. 

“Sean’s webinars have given us some much-needed focus, clarity and inspiration to help grow our mid-value donor program at low cost. It’s been great to watch them as a team and learn together. Already, we’ve made practical improvements such as using an effective method for building our mid-value donors portfolios.”

Because Jason is so nice he is also happy for me to share the full copy of the direct mail letter, second wave/reminder (with the matched gift ask) and response coupon.

Just click here for the PDF in un-merged format, showing you all those personalisations.

If you are struggling to find an offer for your mid value donors, but want to try and lift them up then this is always something available to you, and very attractive to many donors.

Let me know of examples of multiplying gift appeals you have seen. You can find me on Twitter @SeanTriner or post a comment below.


Friday, August 12, 2016

How much research should I do on my major donors?

A well researched tale about two fundraising approaches.

Featuring Bastian the fundraiser at Malnutrition: Unacceptable For Children (MUFC) and Jamie from Let’s Feed Children (LFC).

They both became fundraisers at about the same time just over a year ago.  Both had the job of increasing revenue from their ‘mid-value’ donors: people who had given more than average.

Neither charity had ever had a mid or major donor program beyond it’s existing direct mail program.

Bastian, MUFC

Bastian knew that the more you know about donors, the more chance you have of getting a large donation from them.  MUFC had never had a major donor program so this was a great opportunity.

Since he arrived at MUFC, he identified prospects ‘worth’ approaching for a personal visit:
  • A: 955 donors currently giving large amounts through the direct mail program.
  • B: 196 donors currently not giving lots, but with potential.  Determined by asking a major donor prospecting data agency to scan the MUFC donor database for rich people, (36 were giving more than €500 to MUFC)
  • C: 254 prospects who were identified as wealthy connections to MUFC.  For example, some were friends of board members, others were ‘known’ wealthy locals.
Bastian had spent about €3,500 plus his time getting the data from the database.

He now had over 1,400 prospects: 955 + 196 where he knew their past giving history and 254 who hadn’t given.

Bastian now knew he had to prioritise. He asked the prospecting agency to provide profiles of the 36 prospects giving over €500 (i.e., rich people who were already giving large-ish gifts).

In addition he asked the agency if they had profiles of any of the 254 ‘C’ prospects on their database.
They had quite a few and he paid extra for 44 of the best prospects profiles.

This cost of these 80 profiles (36 + 44) was €60,000 plus about twenty hours of work – but now he had a lot of great information.

For his final research, he hired a temp researcher who helped him Google and use other public information to learn more about the remaining prospects.

Bastian managed to achieve all that within three months of starting his job with MUFC.

Next he started building brilliant, individualised cases for support for the top 80 prospects.

This work took him about nine months – back and forth with field workers, case studies and trying to get a ‘shopping’ list of items donors may be interested in.

Now he had everything lined up.

He started trying to contact the top 80 prospects: which included the 36 rich people who had given over €500 (donor prospects) and the 44 really rich people (cold prospects) who were connected to board members or just wealthy and local.

After another three months, approximately one in four of the donor prospects agreed to meet. And nearly all those who did made donations.

Only one board member managed to get a meeting specifically about donating to MUFC with any of the cold prospects.  She met three people, but wasn’t able to ask. She said it was the ‘wrong time.’

About 15 months from starting, he had raised €90,000 plus €50,000 in pledges.

Another board member committed to raising €10,000 for MUFC at an upcoming golf day.  That board member ‘ring-fenced’ his contacts, telling Bastian to wait until after that day to follow up.  Of course, he would ask for a decent time-frame between the golf day and a formal approach.  Probably a year.

So, after 15 months, tons of work and a cost of about €65,000 Bastian had raised €90,000 and had  €50,000 in pledges.  If those pledges came in, he should have covered all of his costs in just 15 months.

Jamie, LFC

Jamie took a different approach.

She knew that the most likely to donate were people who had donated before, but since only about one in four or one in five would ever meet up she decided to research people after they had agreed to meet.

Step one for her was the same as Bastian’s.  Look at the database.

She identified these prospects:

  • A: 812 donors giving large amounts through the direct mail program. These mid and major gift prospects had all given to LFC’s direct mail in the past.
Jamie worked with the direct marketing team to identify what the next campaign would be.  She interviewed a worker from the field, collected some extra photos from the direct marketing team and copied some videos they had from the website to her iPad.

After six weeks she really understood the cause, had lots of stories and lots of video from the next direct mail (and web) campaign.

She then went through the list of donors, called them and asked them for meetings.

Over the next six weeks she managed to speak with 380 of the 812 donors!  Twenty actually made donations over the phone – usually about the same size as previously, but one gave €20,000.

Of the remaining 360, 205 agreed to meet.  Before each meeting she Google’d them to find out what she could.  Even after that, she knew nothing about most except their previous giving to LFC.  But that was enough.

Within those six weeks she had met up with 160 of her mid and major gift prospects.  She managed to get total donations of €390,000.

In total, she had raised over €400,000 in her first three months.  She knew from the database it was €250,000 more than what these people had ever donated before in a year.

Not bad, but next she needed some really big donations which wouldn’t be as quick. So she convinced the boss to take on someone else to keep this pace up, whilst she started looking at those BIG prospects.

 Learnings from this story:

  • Most donors won’t meet you, but that’s OK.  Even attempting is good donor care.
  • Focus on people who have given to your organisation in the past.  They are much more likely to give than those who have never given. And don’t be tempted early by those big wigs your board knows.  Board ‘leads’ can be awesome, but rarely.  Start with the low hanging fruit.
  • Wait until donors agree to meet you before you research beyond previous giving.   That way you will be more effective and be able to meet many, many more donors. Living in this state of frantic research is fine, if planned.  And don’t worry if you don’t find much more out.  Their previous giving is the gold dust of research.
  • You probably already have great major gift propositions within your current programs.  You don’t have to develop new cases for support straight away. For example, Amnesty lifted a donor’s gifts by asking them to kick off the next direct mail appeal with a big donation.  Read the Amnesty Case Study here. And I have another story with a similar case coming from Burnett Institute, which will be in my next blog.
  • Fundraising planning and tactics are all about the numbers.  Jamie chased the numbers.
  • This approach doesn’t excuse you from chasing the biggies, where things take longer and more thorough research is worth the effort.  Ultimately do both, but in the first place - just get out there and ask.
  • There are no excuses for relationship / philanthropy / major donor fundraisers getting out there and asking. Fast.
Any connection between names and English Premier League teams is nearly coincidental.


PS By the way, if you're interested in learning more about how you can turn your mid value donors into major gift donors - you should join my next webinar, where I'll teach you a process to follow to do this, fast!

The webinar will be live on 29th / 30th September (depending on your time zone) - the webinar recording and slides will be available for all who register, regardless of whether you can make the live webinar. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Easiest Case for Support

Bas, a new fundraiser at a Dutch charity decided he needed to get out and meet some donors.

He looked at those donors who had given by direct mail, since that was most of them.  The third donor he spoke to (of a dozen he tried to call) agreed to meet him.  Indeed, she sounded excited. Her name was Jeanette.

Every Christmas for four years Jeanette gave €250, and for the big fistula appeal last June, a year ago, she gave €1,000. 

She also gave €500 last February, but this time to a young girls’ education appeal.  All were in response to letters she’d received from Bas’s charity, like the one below, which was their upcoming appeal.

Bas had been to a few conferences, and knew he needed a case for support.  But that seemed like it would take a lot of time to develop from scratch.

Now that Jeanette had agreed to meet, Bas had a look in more detail at her giving history.  She seemed to respond really well to issues about children and young people.

And the next direct mail appeal was all about fistula – something she had given very generously to in the past.

He decided the easiest thing to do would be to take the personalised direct mail she would be getting in the post and deliver it by hand.  The brilliant communications team in the charity had researched the topic really well. 

They had lots of photos for the direct mail campaign (many more than were used) and videos too.  They were running the videos in posts on social media and on their website.

He printed the photos out on good photo paper – like one of those envelopes of photos we used to get before photography went digital.  He also got the videos transferred to his Samsung tablet.

He had a good, long chat with the communications people, who had met the people featured in the appeal. Now he had a great – albeit second hand – story of the project from someone who’d been there. 

He would love to have taken one of those ‘witnesses’ with him, but he knew he would be visiting lots of donors, and dragging a communications or programs person to every one would not make financial sense.  He had to make this work on his own.

Now he had a great case study – basically the next direct mail appeal – and some extra material.  All at hardly any cost of money or time. 

Jeanette loved it.  She loved the time he gave her, the videos and the photos.  He made her feel special.  And she really cared about the young people he talked to her about.  She used to be a nurse, and knew all about fistula – a horrible but easily cured condition, which without treatment causes lots of problems for victims.

She gave him €20,000.  More than either expected.  Which actually allowed him to raise €100,000 more.  (But more about that in another article.)

Don’t use the lack of a case for support as a reason not to ask your direct mail donors for more.

They really care already, or they wouldn’t be donating. And you’ve got great material already!

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about how you can turn your mid value donors into major gift donors - you should join my next webinar, where I'll teach you a process to follow in order to do this. 

Click here to register for 'The Quickest, Cheapest and Easiest Way to Earn Extra Cash Now, Turn Mid Value Donors into Major Gifts In a Week.' 

The webinar will be live on 29th / 30th September (depending on your time zone) - the webinar recording and slides will be available for all who register, regardless of whether you can make the live webinar. 


Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here