The Weekend Briefing

"I just wept my way through The Prom story in 'Winning.' This book is inspiring me in ways that I must have needed - a drink of fresh water - and I didn't even know I was thirsty."
- Jane McCracken, Sr. Director of Development and Campaign, Family Service, Billings, MT

"Winning: The Five Truths of Fundraising" is available now in print, Ebook and audiobook on 

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This is what the Great Recession felt like.
A little scary. Uncertain, to be sure. And as I wrote back then, not the best time to be a fundraiser.
You may have wondered why we focused on uncertainty in last week’s Briefing.
I knew this was coming.
If you feel sure about your path for the next 10 months or so, I’m happy for you. Truly. Godspeed.
But if you are less sure about what to do now?
The very first thing; please, read last Sunday’s Briefing again. You can find it on the website. The wisdom, the insight of those three brilliant fundraisers; really, print out last week’s issue, keep it, and read often.
I am not kidding.
More than anything else you do these days and these months, you must maintain relationships with your organization’s best friends. Make them know you understand their uncertainty and perhaps their reluctance to commit to a gift right now.
The relationship is more important to you than the gift.
Most of your lead donors are older. They’ve been through uncertain times before and they know (or hope) this will pass. Would you want to see a fundraiser right now? Maybe.
If the purpose was just to stay in touch? Sure.
If you are a chief development officer, have a reality check with your boss. You may need to adjust your goal for this fiscal and calendar year. I’m not saying rush to do that, but be aware it may come to that.
In 2009 the chief development officer at Amherst College was asked why their numbers rebounded so quickly after the Great Recession. She said,

“The key to our success was that we just kept showing up.”
Put that on a post-it note and attach it to your computer screen.
What do your donors need from you right now? Take a look at some quotes I’ve saved over the last few months:
“Response rates keep going down because donors are waking up to their latent distrust of, and frustration with, our sector.”
“The public’s declining regard for nonprofits may hurt fundraising, advocacy and hiring.”
“45% of nonprofit staff plan to leave their organization within 5 years.”
Here’s an excerpt from Winning: The Five Truths of Fundraising:
“That’s what our donors want to hear. They want to hear it’s going great. They want their association with our organizations to make them happy.
“They don’t want to hear about our problems. Or our struggles. They have plenty of their own. Donors want to hear about our successes, our victories, and how their gifts made them happen.
“Share the success. Every single day, look for the good in your organization and find someone to share it with. Your pride and enthusiasm in your organization is a ‘drug’ to your donors and they want some of it!”
And from the conclusion to Winning:
“Never forget what our donors want from us. They want goodness.
“There is far too much crummy stuff in our world today. But you and your organization, to your donors you represent goodness.
“You represent hope there can be more good than bad in our world.”
I watched a movie recently and nodded when I heard this line: “Helping others makes us happy.”
Mother Theresa of Calcutta, speaking of the rich, said: “They know they need something more than money, but they don’t know what it is.”
The single most important thing we need to bring to our donors right now is to make them happy. Proud of what we do. Good news. Constantly.
Donors have an expectation of us and of the organizations we serve. Donors give to us because it makes them happy.
They see our organization, the work we do, the success we have as one of the few sanctuaries of goodness in our world today.
When we stray from that, when we don’t show the goodness they expect, we break an unspoken pact with our donors.
A shabby thank you. Asking 18 times a year. Scandal. Greed. Donors think, “How dare you! Shame on you! I have the right to expect more of you!”
And they do. Right now, they expect us to be understanding.
A fundraising guru I greatly admire once told me, “The Weekend Briefing is relentlessly positive.”
Each one of us, every one of our organizations, needs to be the same.
Have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings is a fundraising consultant. He guides capital campaigns, coaches gift officers and helps nonprofit organizations build strong, sustainable fundraising programs. You can reach him at

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