Source: NPEngage by Todd Cohen

With the economy starting to revive, and donors showing some faith in their ability to give, nonprofits need to focus on fundraising basics. That means working hard to strengthen their connection with existing donors, connect with prospective donors, and build their organization’s “culture of philanthropy” and fundraising capacity.

Here are some strategies that fundraising professionals say have been working in nine fields of interest.


Health care organizations that have been effective at fundraising also have provided ongoing training for fundraising staff; hosted activities that get donors to their facilities; engaged their volunteer and executive leaders; heightened contact with donors through more meetings and appeals; and reignited capital campaigns.

Fundraising consulting firm L.W. Robbins in Holliston, Mass., has encouraged clients to focus on best practices, specifically by more testing of direct-response marketing strategies to acquire new donors and renew existing donors, says Lynn Edmonds, president.

For 35 Feeding America food banks that are clients, L.W. Robbins has tested variations of several direct-response “control packages” that have proved effective in acquiring new donors.

In one test, most local prospects the food banks were targeting in mailings received a control package that included an envelope with a standard-size letter and a reply slip. A smaller test group received a mini-greeting card customized to local prospects.

The test proved more effect than the control package and now has replaced it, so future testing will try new approaches to see if they prove more effective than the new control package.

To help boost its annual fund, the membership and development teams at the National Wildlife Federation have worked more closely with one another and tried to be more strategic and send more mail appeals to people giving over $1,000, says Anne Senft, vice president of philanthropy.

After five years of using mail for those donors, including multiple appeals a year, revenue from them has doubled.

Two direct marketing programs at Paralyzed Veterans of America focus on premium and non-premium donors, or those who receive a free item with the mail such as calendars or mailing labels, and those who do not, says Cathy Jenkins, director of direct marketing.

Last year, for the first time, the group sent non-premium donors a small rose made of cloth they could return so it could be used to make a wreath for Veterans Day, a strategy that generated a double-digit increase in the response rate.

In the faith-based market, direct mail, online strategies and Christian radio have proven effective in acquiring donors, says Rick Dunham, president and CEO of Dunham+Company.

Those strategies include testing targeted mailing lists to acquire new givers; using personalized communications through direct mail, telephone and email to convert those givers to donors; and providing “ongoing cultivation and retention, using direct mail and newsletters to keep a donor engaged, inspired and supporting the organization,” he says.

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