impact stories blog

Five Takeaways from AFP ICON in San Antonio

More than 3,500 fundraisers descended on the San Antonio River Walk at the end of March to attend the AFP International Conference, or AFP ICON. Impact’s Kathy Swayze, CFRE was there and shares five ideas that might help you raise more money.

  1. If you have some money to spend on telemarketing for your mid-level program, where should you spend it? Skip the thank you calls and put your dollars into renewal calls. (Thanks Roger Craver, The Agitator and Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropy)
  2. Where do donors do research before making a planned gift? They consult their lawyer and they go to your website. But sadly, most planned giving pages talk about gift vehicles and very little about what really motivates your donors—your mission and how they can carry it on after their lifetime. What’s on your website? (Thanks Penelope Burk, Cygnus Applied Research)
  3. Women make up 73% of nonprofit employees but only 45% of nonprofit CEOs. And for organizations over $25 million, women CEOs are just 21%. AFP’s Women’s Impact Initiative is addressing gender discrimination in our sector through research, awareness, education and support. Learn more about the AFP IDEA: Women’s Impact Summit being held this fall.
  4. How can you make your stories stickier and more impactful? Use subconscious anchors that make your story memorable. Tell your story in a way that a donor can see it, hear it, smell it, feel it or touch it. (Thanks to Bernie Ross, =MC)
  5. Where are your donors hanging out these days? On Facebook! People over the age of 55 are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. Ligia Peña, Global Legacy Manager for Greenpeace, suggests getting videos, images and awesome copy in front of your donors on Facebook. Here’s a great example from UNICEF.

Want more great ideas? AFP ICON comes to Baltimore, March 29-31, 2020. Learn more here.

Free Marketing from USPS

Imagine a world where the US Postal Service would send a full color email to your donors letting them know your direct mail piece is on the way. With an actual image of your mailing. And it didn’t cost you a thing.

Wouldn’t that be great? Well, it’s already here with Informed Delivery. Enter your campaign in the USPS Informed Delivery system, upload a full color photo of your package and a call to action button . . . and anyone on your donor list who has signed up for informed delivery will receive an email from the post office that can link to your donate page!

Approximately 20,000 people a day are signing up for informed delivery and 10 to 20 percent of your donors may be using it already.

Do you still need your print newsletter?

Yes, yes, 1,000 times, yes!

“But it takes so much time to put together.” “Nobody reads anymore.”  “It’s really expensive and it doesn’t raise that much money.” “We can just send it by email.”

You have likely heard some of these comments from your staff, your Board members and maybe even uttered one or two of them yourself. Every fundraiser in the world has a lot to do, so it might seem like a good idea to save some time by not creating a newsletter.

But here’s the thing–your donors need to hear how their money is making a difference. They give you money because they want to make a difference. It’s your job to report back and tell them about the impact they are having by investing in your organization. This is especially true for mid-level donors.

Okay, you say, but we can do that with our e-newsletter. Isn’t that enough? First of all, kudos to you for sending regular e-newsletters–it’s a great part of the formula for reporting back to your donors. But be honest. . . how often do you open and read a charity newsletter when it shows up in your inbox? I find that even the organizations I truly love are often overlooked because of more important and urgent things in my inbox.

So, sometimes it’s nice to come home and find a newsletter in my mailbox, kick off my shoes, sit down on the couch and take a peek. And remember, many of your donors are older and retired. In an era when personal letter writing is on the decline, your newsletter may be the most personal thing in their mailbox on a given day. And they have time to read it.

And, when you tell people about the good work you are doing, it often inspires them to donate again. At Impact, we have developed new impact report newsletters for two of our mid-level clients. The goal was to share information and steward these important $1,000 plus donors. There is no ask, but there is an envelope, and each issue generates revenue, sometimes as high as $75,000. Why? Because they are inspired by what you do.

So, the next time you are looking for places to save time or expenses, leave your print newsletter alone.

You Are an Expert, Own It

During the AFP International Conference (ICON) in San Antonio, TX this week, past AFP chair Anne Hale shared a story from stage which I will paraphrase here.

Imagine you go to your doctor because you’ve been having flu-like symptoms. Your doctor does an examination and says, “Yes, it’s the flu. Go home, rest and drink lots of water.” But you say to your doctor, “Thanks, but I think I can kick this with rigorous exercise and by drinking more wine.”

That would be absurd, right? After all, your doctor is the “expert” in medical matters. But this is what happens to fundraisers in our jobs EVERY SINGLE DAY. Your board member (who is not a fundraising professional) tells you that you shouldn’t solicit more than once a year. Your CEO (who is not a fundraising professional) questions why you want money to go visit donors. A program staffer (who is not a fundraising professional) rewrites entire sections of your fundraising letter.

It happens all the time. But why?

The easy answer is to say, “they just don’t get it.” But what if we fundraisers considered the role we play in this continuing story? Here are five things you can do today to help ensure that fundraising is recognized as a true profession requiring real expertise.

  1. Advocate for your ideas and share the data (there’s lots of it) about why you are recommending these strategies. Get data from other organizations in your sector about how the strategy worked for them. Peruse the most current resources at The Philanthropy Centre, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the Science of Philanthropy Initiative, the Lilly School of Philanthropy, and other top research institutions.
  2. Invest in your own training by attending conferences and other educational events—and don’t forget all the virtual training programs now available online.
  3. Subscribe to (and actually read) fundraising publications and share the relevant articles with others on your team.
  4. Obtain certification, such as the CFRE, ACFRE, or FAHP.
  5. And, most importantly, never apologize for asking for money. Remember, you are fueling the change our world needs and giving people an opportunity to add meaning to their lives. Tell others how proud you are to be a part of the fundraising profession.

– Kathy Swayze

Fool Me Once. . .

It’s tax time and they’re at it again. Direct marketers who send mailings that look just like the important tax documents you are waiting for.



In January and February, my mailbox was full of envelopes that looked like this:

The problem is . . . these packages have nothing to do with my taxes. So, when I open them and find out the sender wants to sell me a credit card or insurance, or a bridge in Brooklyn, I’m annoyed.

Why do marketers think that annoying someone is a good way to start a relationship? Don’t they understand that in today’s world, TRUST is one of the most valuable assets any company has? How can you trust a company that uses trickery in its marketing to be transparent and above board with you when you become a customer?

The lesson here is that we should start our relationships with our donors (and customers) the right way. With honest, thoughtful communications that inspire them, not gimmicks. If we do that, we might just have a shot at building that relationship for the long haul.

8 Must-Have Components of a Winning Case Statement

Case statements come in many sizes and shapes—but they all aim to convince your donors to invest in the mission of your organization.  To make sure you have a winning case statement, include these 8 elements:

1. Use a Theme — This is how you grab the reader and get them to turn the page. Connects to donor (more…)

Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Take My Money: Fuzzy Flyers Edition

Take My Money is a new occasional series featuring creative inspiration straight from Impact’s mailbox.

If I were a character in “Harry Potter,” I would totally have a pet bat. I mean, owls are way too mainstream, amirite?

So I appear to be the target audience for this beautiful package from The Nature Conservancy, featuring a full color photo of a bat saying “Nobody Loves Me.”

“AWWW, look at her cute widdle tongue! I will love you, bat!”

You can’t go wrong with a furry face, even one that’s a little unusual. Between the photo and the teaser, this envelope begs to be opened. And once you get inside, The Nature Conservancy effectively makes the case for giving to prevent habitat loss and support critical wildlife research. The copy includes includes geographic personalization, and makes the reader feel special for caring about these misunderstood animals.

Take my money! And save the bats!

Did you work on this package? Let us know so we can give you a virtual round of applause!


Tagged , , |

Take My Money: Valentine’s Day Edition

Take My Money is a new occasional series featuring creative inspiration straight from Impact’s mailbox.

It’s no secret that Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to show your donors how much you love them. And this card my husband and I just received from our college shows how to do it right.

This pretty picture is of the Crim Dell bridge, one of the most beautiful spots at the College of William & Mary. Campus lore holds that if a couple crosses the bridge together, and kisses at the top, they’ll be together forever. (We won’t go into how to reverse the spell if the relationship takes a turn for the worse…)

It’s the perfect image to grace the Valentine they sent to alumni couples. It feels personal, bringing up warm feelings of our college days together. A place where we were young and in love.

Now please excuse me while I go hum our alma mater for the rest of the afternoon.


Tagged , |

How Much Do You Know About Your Donors of Color?

While interviewing a foundation leader recently, I learned about a thought-provoking report by the Vaid Group: The Apparitional Donor: Understanding and Engaging High Net Worth Donors of Color.

It’s eye-opening to read about how philanthropy continues to overlook donors from diverse communities, paying little attention to these donors’ interests and preferred ways of making change with their dollars:

The limited available research on HNW [high net worth] donors of color and the lack of comprehensive data on giving by affluent, HNW, and UHNW people of color leaves many questions unanswered and many details about donor priorities, concerns, and motivations unknown . . .  HNW donors of color are real and complex individuals with unique personal stories who bring a generous personal engagement with their families, communities, and cultures. The philanthropic practices of communities of color are distinctly different from one another and are, in highly significant ways, unlike the philanthropy of white HNW donors.

Our sector needs to do a better job of listening to donors of color, that much is clear. And, we need to build a more diverse community within the fundraising profession itself.

In the meantime, we should all do some soul searching about how we as individuals, organizations, and companies that support nonprofits can do better. Here’s some more food for thought:

Government Shutdown: Philanthropy Responds

The facts are sobering. More than 800,000 federal workers not getting paid. Washington-DC area restaurants report business down 20 to 60%. A devastating halt to health and education programs provided based on historic agreements between Native tribes and the government. The Department of Agriculture says funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) will run out by March 1. The ripple effects are not yet fully known.

But we do know this. Philanthropy and the nonprofit community are standing in the gap, as they always do. Here are just a few amazing examples:

José Andrés is at it again. With his World Central Kitchen charity and #ChefsforFeds, this restauranteur has opened a kitchen and café to feed furloughed workers in the DC area. Open from 11 am to 6 pm daily, they provide hot meals and food to go. And yes, they have been flooded with volunteers. Learn more here.

United Way of the National Capital Area in Washington D.C. established a $50,000 Emergency Assistance Fund to area nonprofits to meet people’s basic needs. Donate here.

DC Diaper Bank is helping furloughed families with necessities including diapers and period products during the shutdown. Learn how you can help here.

And when the National Park Foundation put out a call to help the parks recover after reopening, thousands of their members responded by donating and offering to volunteer once the parks reopen. Get involved here.

These are just a few examples and I could list many more. Once again, philanthropy and the army of good people who work in and support our charitable organizations are responding with heart and compassion. Leaving politics aside for now, let’s all do what we can to help.

At Impact, we’re doing our part by donating to the above charities. What will you do?