"Let's Talk Nonprofit" is a blog that addresses common questions that nonprofits have. Questions about fundraising. Questions about boards. Questions about what's going on in the nonprofit sector today. Ready? Let's Talk Nonprofit.

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Storytelling Differences: Grants vs. Donor Appeals

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Storytelling Differences Grants vs Donor Appeals
All stories are not the same. In fact, your stories should be different - very different - depending on your audience. Data may tell, but it's your stories that sell. Your grant proposals will include lots of data, but your direct appeals to individual donors won't. So what kinds of stories should you tell, especially in your year-end donor appeals? (read more)

What Your Donors Really, Really Want

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What Your Donors Really, Really Want
Donor retention is key to a nonprofit's annual campaign and overall fundraising success. Yet many donors focus on getting new donors, rather than keeping the ones they have. So, how do you keep donors? By giving them what they want. And what do donors want? It's surprisingly simple. Do these few simple things, and you'll drive donor commitment, loyalty and retention - and raise more money. (read more)

What Donors Do After A Disaster

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What Donors Do After A Disaster
After a disaster, people want to help. And donors to the relief efforts are very likely donors to other organizations - including yours. If you're not a relief organization, are you worried how Harvey (and now Irma) may impact your donations? Are you concerned about donor fatigue? That donors will be overasked and overcommitted by the end of the year? (read more)

How To Help After a Disaster

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How To Help - After a Disaster
It's been 5 days, and Harvey is still wreaking havoc across the South. And it will be months - even years - before the area fully recovers. People want to help, and you may be one of them. Consider these options to help the victims of Harvey as well as future disasters. You might be surprised at what you shouldn't do. (read more)

Telling Your Nonprofit's Story With Guidestar

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Telling Your Nonprofits Story With Guidestar
Savvy donors and foundations are using Guidestar to learn about your organization. And savvy nonprofits are using Guidestar to tell their organization's story. So, what does your Guidestar profile say about you? Guidestar promotes transparency, and you can earn a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum seal, based on what you share. What color is your profile? (read more)

Demystifying the Data from 2 Key Fundraising Reports

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Demystifying the Data from 2 Key Fundraising Reports
Fundraising is both a science and an art. And each year, Giving USA and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project give us lots of data and insights to the sector. Once you unlock the data, you can use the science to practice the art of fundraising. Here are some top takeaways from the reports and how you can use that information to raise more money. (read more)

5 Things To Do Before June 30

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5 Things To Do Before June 30
Ah, June. School's out. Pools are open. Vacation season is in full swing. Alas, summer isn't always a picnic for nonprofits. That's because the beginning of June also means the end of June isn't far away. And for many nonprofits, June 30 marks the end of their fiscal year. Regardless of where you are in your nonprofit's "year," there are five things you need to do now. (read more)

How to Calculate Overhead Expenses

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Overhead Its Not A Bad Thing
There's a new school of thinking is that overhead isn't a bad thing, especially when those expenses are being used for growth. I like Peter Drury's metaphor - that overhead is like cholesterol. There's good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Just because your number is high, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. Do you know your number? (read more)

Meeting Your Fundraising Goals - This Year and Next

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Meeting Your Fundraising Goal - This Year and Next
There's been a lot of talk lately about the President's proposed budget for 2018, which seeks to reduce or eliminate hundreds of programs. The key word is "proposed." The proposed cuts may or may not happen. Regardless, what the President has proposed should serve as a reminder to all nonprofits that it's important to create and keep a diverse revenue stream. And it all starts with your fundraising plan. (read more)

Bylaws Are More Than A Buzzword

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Bylaws Are More Than A Buzzword
Being part of a nonprofit organization can feel a little crazy sometimes, don't you think? There's good news. Your bylaws can help stop the madness. Bylaws are an essential governance document and they should be revisited from time to time. Learn how to use your bylaws to guide and strengthen your organization. You'll also find an 11-point checklist for what your bylaws should include. (read more)

How Does Your Board Compare?

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How Does Your Board Compare
It's not unusual for people to keep doing what they've always done...especially if they don't know any other way. Just knowing how your board compares to other nonprofits can help you see where there are opportunities for improvement. Here are 10 points you can measure against and what the data means for you. (read more)

The Best Boards Practice Good Governance

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The Best Boards Practice Good Governance
When I grow up, I want to be a BOARD MEMBER!" Said no child. Ever. So, it's not surprising that a lot of people join boards without really understanding what a board really does (or is supposed to do). The best boards practice good governance. But what does that really mean? And what does "good governance" look like? Essential governance practices are explained here, plus a 7-point checklist for you to use. (read more)

Volunteers Add Real Value: How Do YOU Value Them?

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The Real Value of Your Volunteers
Chances are, you missed International Volunteer Day on December 5. And that's understandable. This time of year, most nonprofits are focusing their attention on donors and year-end giving. At the same time, let's not forget the volunteers who make great things happen all year long. Volunteers add a lot of value to your organization – as both human and financial resources. Here are some tips on how you can assign value and show your appreciation to your volunteers. (read more)

How to Get Donors to Like You (and Give More)

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How to Get Donors to Like You and Give More
Dale Carnegie's seminal book, "How To Win Friends and Influence People," was published 80 years ago. It's an oldie...and a goodie. It wasn't written for fundraisers. However, there are many lessons you can apply when you want to raise more money for your nonprofit. Use what you learn here to build relationships, make stronger appeals, and show appreciation to your donors. Then, you'll raise more money. (read more)

How to "Be Your Donor," and Why

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How to Be Your Donor, and Why
"Be Your Donor Day." Have you heard of it? It's not a traditional holiday and it gets little fanfare. However, this simple concept has big implications for your nonprofit. Think of "Be Your Donor Day" as a time to measure your donors' giving experience. From testing your donation system to tracking your back office process, you want to make sure every donor's experience is a great one. (read more)

10 Tips for Year-End Fundraising Success

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10 Tips for Year-End Fundraising Success
It's back-to-school time. And if you have kids - whether they're in kindergarten or starting college - you make a plan for getting ready for that all-important first day. What about your nonprofit? Are you getting ready for the most important time of your year? December can be make-or-break for your organization's annual budget. If you haven't started planning your year-end fundraising campaign, now's the time to start. And here are a few ideas to get you going. (read more)

Anatomy of a Stellar Thank You Letter

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Anatomy of a Stellar Thank You Letter
Here are some simple truths: When you give someone a gift, you expect them to say "thank you." And when a donor makes a contribution to your nonprofit, you should always say thank you. In writing. It doesn't have to be handwritten. It could be a typed letter. Or even email. Whatever medium you choose, your "thank you" should have some basic elements. Follow these four simple steps and you'll take your thank you letters from average to All Star! (read more)

15 Fun Facts from the Giving USA 2016 Report

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15 Fun Facts from the Giving USA 2016 Report
For more than 60 years, the Giving USA report has provided insights into the sector. This annual report tells us about U.S. giving trends from the last year. It gives us a benchmark for philanthropy and helps us understand who's giving - and to whom. This year's headline read "2015 Was America's Most-Generous Year Ever." And that's good news for the nonprofit sector. And that's not all the good news. Read on for 15 giving facts that you need to know. (read more)

5 Fundraising Lessons from Give Big 2016

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5 Fundraising Lessons from Give Big 2016
Give Big Day had its challenges in 2015. One major fundraising platform crashed, making the system unavailable to donors for most of the day. Yet the Gallatin Valley (Bozeman, MT) crushed its $300,000 giving goal and raised more than $420,000 using what they called Plan B. Here's what they did. And, just like Bozeman, you can raise more money when you apply these five overarching themes to your fundraising. (read more)

How You Should Be Talking To Your Donors

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How You Should Be Talking To Your Donors
Penelope Burk literally wrote the book on "Donor Centered Fundraising" in 2003. So, the idea of donor-centricity isn't new. What's donor-centricity, you ask? It's organizing everything you do around the wants and needs of your donor. And in nonprofit communications, there's nothing more important than making the message about your donor. Here are some examples of how a lot of nonprofits talk to their donors...and how you should be talking to your donors. (read more)

5 Cool Google Tools and How Your Nonprofit Can Use Them

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Cool Google Tools and How Your Nonprofit Can Use Them
Google. Can you imagine life without it? We use it every single day and in so many ways. There's Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Hangouts, Maps and more. And we can't forget where it all started: good old-fashioned Search. And as much as you use Google, I'd bet there are tools and programs that you're not using...and that could benefit your nonprofit. Here are five of them. (read more)

How To Have Better Board Meetings

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How To Have Better Board Meetings
Do your board meetings feel like a necessary evil? Well, there's hope. You can have better board meetings. Great board meetings are possible, but they don't just happen. They take planning, preparation and a commitment from everyone, from the board officers to each and every board member. Here are 14 tips for better board meetings, with specific suggestions for your board chair, treasurer, secretary and the individual board members. (read more)

Do You Have Board Members or Bored Members?

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Do You Have Board Members or Bored Members
You know those conference name badges with the colorful ribbons that say "Speaker," "Sponsor" and the like? I attended a conference recently where some attendees were wearing strips that said "Bored Member." (They were tchotchkes from the exhibitor's hall, and they were the hottest item there.) Silly as it seems, it does make you think. Does your nonprofit have "bored members?" Are you one yourself? If you answered yes, here's how you can change that. (read more)

Do You Have Too Many Competing Priorities?

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Do You Have Too Many Competing Priorities
The new year. It's a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. It's a time for plans...and priorities. If you're like most people, you probably feel like you have too many things to do. And you wonder how you'll get them all done. There's no doubt that most nonprofit employees are charged with doing a lot of different tasks. So, I ask you, what's your top priority? And what would happen if you focused your time, energy and resources on that single most important thing? (read more)

Raise More Money in the Last Four Weeks of the Year

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Last-Minute Tips for Year-End Fundraising
Whether your nonprofit operates on a calendar year or fiscal year, what happens in December is critically important to your annual fundraising success. Giving spikes at the end of the year and fully one-third of December's gifts occur on December 31. So, how can you raise more money in the last four weeks of the year? Here are 4 actions you can take now to raise more money in the next 4 weeks. (read more)

10 Essential Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards

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10 Essential Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards
Did you know that "Board" and "Board Members" are not interchangeable terms? The board is the collective group of individual board members. Individuals have responsibilities, just as the group has responsibilities. Every nonprofit board, as the governing body of the nonprofit, has 10 fundamental responsibilities. Do your individual board members understand what the board is charged with? (read more)

21 Tips for Your Next Fundraising Appeal

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21 Tips for Your Year-End Fundraising Appeal
When it comes to fundraising, what do you need to know? First, abandon the idea of a single "annual appeal." Asking for money is no longer a once-a-year activity. In fact, donors expect you to ask more often (and they respond when you do!), so don't wait until this time next year to ask again. Second, the primary focus of your appeal should be to keep your current donors – not attract new ones. Lastly, here are 21 tips and tricks to a better appeal, every time. (read more)

How To Plan Your First Big Fundraising Campaign

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Before You Start Planning Your Next Fundraising Campaign
So, you want to raise money. A lot of money. But you don't know where to start. Well, you're not alone. Here's the good news. You can raise more money. But first, you need a plan. A recently released study of small nonprofits (less than $2 million budgets) found that, when it comes to fundraising results, "the ONLY thing that matters is whether your organization has a fundraising plan." Okay. So, where do you begin? (read more)

Do You Have An Attitude of Gratitude?

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Do You Have An Attitude of Gratitude
Do your donors feel special? I do, and it's thanks to some tremendous work by nonprofits in my adopted hometown of Bozeman, MT. I made 10 modest gifts to 10 nonprofits on Give Big Day and watched to see what would happen. Wow! Here are some of the ways that I've been thanked for those donations over the last 90 days. Steal these ideas and you'll make your donor's day! (read more)

What You Need To Know From the Giving USA 2015 Report

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What You Need To Know From the Giving USA 2015 Report
This is the time of year that many nonprofits start the cycle again: new budget, new board members, new goals. It's also a time to look back and see what we can learn from the past. Why now, you ask? Each June, the annual Giving USA report is released, providing us with trends and insights from the previous year's giving trends. This information can help your nonprofit plan for the year ahead. Here are some of the report's findings from 2014 giving. (read more)

What's In Your Writing Toolbox?

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Whats In Your Writing Toolbox
Grant writing is a skill that you hone over time. And just like a good craftsman, you need a good set of tools if you want to do the job well. Maybe you have an APA style guide. If you're old school, you might even have Mr. Webster's work sitting nearby. When it comes to proofreading and review, I'll bet you're probably using your word processor's spell check and grammar check features. And that's good. But there's more. (read more)

How One Small Community Raised $240,000 In 24 Hours

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How One Small Community Raised 240,000 In 24 Hours
Organizers expected Give Big Day 2015 would raise $100 million nationwide. I want to give a shout out to my friend Bridget and all those who made the first #GiveBigGallatinValley event such a success. Their efforts raised nearly $240,000 in 24 hours. This month, I'm sharing some of the things Bridget did and ideas you can use when planning your next online giving event. (read more)

Every Board Member Can Be A Fundraiser

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Every Board Member Can Be A Fundraiser
Today is April Fools' Day, but this is no joke. Every member of your board CAN be an effective fundraiser. And when every board member is involved in fundraising, you will raise more money for your nonprofit. I recently facilitated a half-day fundraising training for a nonprofit board. At one point, a board member had that "aha!" moment and announced gleefully, "I can do that!" And she can. Every board member can. Read on and learn how to get your board "on board" with fundraising. (read more)

Proofreading vs. Editing: What's The Difference?

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Proofreading vs Editing Whats The Difference
It's called grant writing. Alas, there's so much more to grant writing than just "writing." Grant writing always starts with comprehensive and thorough research, and it always ends with a careful and thoughtful review. Your review should be a combination of proofreading and editing. What's the difference, you ask? Read on, dear reader. (read more)

Improve Your Writing: Tips for Writing for Older Donors

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Improve Your Writing Tips for Writing for Older Donors
This month's musing was inspired by a fabulous presentation that I attended at the Fundraising Summit last month. The session on Bequest Marketing was presented by the equally fabulous Leah Eustace, ACFRE. Leah's presentation got me thinking about older donors in general and their importance to your organization. So, this month, I'll share some thoughts about older donors and tips writing to them -- just the way they want to read it. (read more)

Fundraising vs. Grant Writing: What's Right For My Nonprofit?

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Fundraising vs Grant Writing Whats Right For My Nonprofit
The start of the new year is the perfect time for you to think about your nonprofit's fundraising objectives and strategies. Do you need to raise money? Of course! Should you be writing grants? Maybe. Grants are just one piece of the funding puzzle, and they aren't the only way for your nonprofit to bring in money. Learn how grant writing can fit in your broader development plan. (read more)

What You Need To Know About #GivingTuesday and Give Local America

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What You Need To Know About GivingTuesday and GiveBIG Days
#GivingTuesday is the unofficial start to the year-end giving season. Held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, it follows one day of giving thanks, and two days of getting deals. #GivingTuesday started in 2012, and it's one of two national days of giving. #GiveLocal (or #GiveBig) started in 2014 and is held on the first Tuesday in May. These giving days are growing in size and momentum. And here's how to get your organization ready to participate. (read more)

Improve Your Writing: Keep It Simple. Seriously!

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Improve Your Writing Keep It Simple Seriously
The U.S. Navy is credited with creating the "KISS Principle." The acronym stands for "Keep It Simple, Stupid." You should apply the KISS Principle to your nonprofit's writing. Whether you're writing a grant proposal, a direct appeal or website content, you want to write so your audience will understand...and be inspired to take action. (read more)

Why Grant Writing Is Like A Three-Legged Stool

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Why Grant Writing Is Like A Three-Legged
A three-legged stool functions most efficiently when you have three legs of equal size. Without that, you'll be off balance. Similarly, in grant writing, if you're only focused on "writing," your stool only has one leg. You might be writing a lot of proposals, but you won't be winning many grants. That's why your grant writing stool needs three legs. (read more)

Part 2 of 2: Your Nonprofit Can Get This $10,000 Grant

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Part 2 of 2 Your Nonprofit Can Get This 10,000 Grant
How would you like to get a $10,000 grant? What about a monthly $10,000 grant? Guaranteed? You can! Really! Your nonprofit can get $10,000 each month in the form of a Google Ad Grant. What's a Google ad grant, you ask? And how does it work? This two-part post will answer those questions and many more. (read more)

Part 1 of 2: Your Nonprofit Can Get This $10,000 Grant

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Part 1 of 2 Your Nonprofit Can Get This 10,000 Grant
How would you like to get a $10,000 grant? What about a monthly $10,000 grant? Guaranteed? You can! Really! Your nonprofit can get $10,000 each month in the form of a Google Ad Grant. What's a Google ad grant, you ask? And how does it work? This two-part post will answer those questions and many more. (read more)

The New IRS Form 1023-EZ...Good Or Bad For Nonprofits?

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The New IRS Form 1023-EZ Good Or Bad For Nonprofits
On July 1, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service released a three-page, online application (Form 1023-EZ - "Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption"). Previously, all organizations - regardless of size - had to file the 26-page Form 1023, and supporting documentation before receiving a 501(c)(3) determination letter. What will this new form mean for the nonprofit sector? (read more)

What You Need To Know From The Giving USA 2014 Report

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What You Need To Know From The Giving USA 2014 Report
Nonprofit data nerds wait for this all year long: the Giving USA report. This annual report gives us a detailed overview of charitable giving in the U.S., by source and by sector. This is the most comprehensive charitable giving data available. And it's finally here. Here's what you need to know from this year's report. (read more)

3 Statistical Facts That Will Improve Your Fundraising

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3 Statistical Facts That Will Improve Your Fundraising
The good folks at npENGAGE compiled a list of 50 Fascinating Nonprofit Statistics that covers the gamut -- from how many nonprofits there are in the U.S. (1.4 million) to how much is donated to them ($316 billion in 2012), by whom (Boomers give to more charities than Millennials) and how (online giving is growing). Here are 3 statistics that will surprise you. (read more)

Do Your Board Members Know What They Should Be Doing?

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Do Your Board Members Know What They Should Be Doing
The first time I was asked to join a board, I was so honored that I said "yes" without understanding what it truly meant to be a board member, let alone how to be an effective board member. I think a lot of people do the same thing. Do your board members understand the role they play in the management, oversight and success of the organization? (read more)

SHIFT The Way You Think About Fundraising

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SHIFT The Way You Think About Fundraising
Last week was the 51st Annual International Conference of the Association of Professional Fundraisers. The theme was SHIFT, as in "shift your perspective and get a whole new focus on fundraising." Dozens of nonprofit thought leaders (including Tom Ahern, Penelope Burk, Simone Joyaux and Beth Kanter) shared ideas that inspired the nearly 3,000 of us fundraisers who were in attendance. Here are a few takeaways. (read more)

Improve Your Writing: Commonly Confused Words

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Improve Your Writing Commonly Confused Words
March 4 is National Grammar Day. Isn't that fun? At the very least, you'll have to admit that grammar can be funny. Grammar can also be frustrating, which is why I'm sharing some common errors with you. Do you know the difference between use and utilize? Continual and continuous? Alternate and alternative? What about impactful - is it a word, or isn't it? (read more)

How To Score More Donors and Volunteers

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How To Score More Donors and Volunteers
If you're a football fan, then you know that the Big Game is the Super Bowl, and vice versa. This clever wordplay works with this audience. However, you and your nonprofit should be careful. Ambiguous words and vague concepts can confuse your audience. Every time you communicate with your supporters, you want to be clear about what you do...and exactly how you want them to help your cause. (read more)

What a 10-Year-Old Can Teach You About Thanking Your Donors

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What a 10-Year-Old Can Teach You About Thanking Your Donors
We're taught as children that you always say "thank you" for a gift. Children may be able to get away with a verbal thank you or template-like letters. But your nonprofit can't. If my 10-year-old niece were a nonprofit, you can bet that I'd support her cause. Here are 3 reasons why. Apply these lessons when writing your next thank you to a donor, and you be taking a step towards getting your next gift. (read more)

Are You Ready to Ask for (and Receive) Year-End Donations?

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Are You Ready to Ask for and Receive Year-End Donations
Yesterday was Giving Tuesday. It's a day that encourages us to give to charity. And it's particularly timely since 'tis the season...the end-of-year fundraising season, that is. And, in order to get people to give, you need to ask. It's as simple as that. Here are some tips for reaching out by direct mail and by email, and also tips to getting your website ready to receive online donations. (read more)

3 Ways To Celebrate National Philanthropy Day

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3 Ways To Celebrate National Philanthropy Day
Every year on November 15, National Philanthropy Day gives us a chance to recognize and honor the people who make a difference in our lives, in our communities and in our world. You won't find any cards at Hallmark that celebrate this annual event. Even so, I'd like to suggest that you send a card anyway. In fact, I encourage you to thank these 3 different types of supporters this month. (read more)
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