12 Suggestions to Increase Charitable Donations 

By James Feldman, CITE, CPIM, CPT, MIP

The new motto of innovative organizations should be catch me if you can. With companies closing, worldwide competition increasing, employee commitment disappearing, a worldwide recession, and credit tightening your organization are confronted with a constantly shifting array of donors, competitors, strategic alliances, as well as increased charitable giving volatility. The only hope for your organization lies in developing the ability to move and change as rapidly as your competitive environment.

It is time to think and act beyond the bounds of conventional wisdom. Fear is not a growth strategy. You must be innovative. You must be bold. What worked in the past may not be effective for 2015.

Fear makes us irrational.  Fearlessness is what distinguishes the DNA of entrepreneurs. Mistakes happen but we can learn from them. It is time to reach out, stretch, and do things differently by asking yourself, “What am I going to do differently today, that will get me better results than yesterday”

Since it has become exceedingly difficult to see more than a few months into the future for your organization to be successful, you have, in my opinion, two alternatives:

  1. You can achieve a commanding position in the marketplace and dictate the changing rules of the game through creative innovation;
  2. You can develop the ability to react immediately to those who do.

Philanthropy tends to decrease when the economy slows and overall donations were down in 2008 and now, in 2015, they appear to have returned to the 2007 levels. However, in some of the hardest-hit areas of the country, small-scale giving appears to be going strong—sometimes even growing. The winners are the ones who have the determination to move forward with their innovative ideas. You cannot agonize and influence at the same time. Just like iron rusts from disuse, water becomes frozen in cold weather; inaction saps our ability to see opportunities. Now is the time for a new vision, a new stimulus, and an understanding that donor opportunities still exist for those that seize them.

Unfortunately, in most organizations today, employees are swiftly punished for failure and not adequately rewarded for success. The traditional fund raising paradigm hobbles creative thinking, with an entrenched culture that simply makes the decisions that are necessary, but doesn’t ‘rock the boat.’

However, a business plan that is defensive, designed merely to keep up with the competition, is not good enough. The strong emotions that feed our competitive spirit should be used to promote innovation.

We must lead with our minds and follow with our hearts. Ideas are the spark that ignites the fire of creative innovation, and innovation is a business leader’s best offensive weapon.

When you get right down to it, only a few viable strategies for coping with this accelerated pace of change exist continuous change and improvement, innovative thinking, creative marketing, and speed of implementation. Of course, one of the greatest threats to developing this kind of organizational quick-strike capability is the age-old syndrome of “paralysis by analysis.” Be aware that more and more analysis will not help. The only sane response to an increasingly complex, fast-changing world is to establish procedures that can be mobilized almost as quickly as the changing business realities around you. Here’s how to do that:

Continually Change and Improve

Most people find change, particularly rapid and unpredictable change, frightening and upsetting. Nevertheless, turbulence and change are not going away; instead, they will become more pronounced. Change happens and there is nothing your company can do to stop it – nor should they. In change, there is an inherent opportunity just waiting to be discovered by those who are quick enough and bold enough to take advantage of it. Therefore, it’s time to readjust your thinking to understand that you should be causing change, not reacting to it.

Your best chance to succeed is to be the one who is driving most of the changes. Of course, not everyone gets to be the leader. So it is incumbent on the rest of us to do the next best thing, namely develop super-fast reflexes that can respond quickly, turn on a dime, and make near-instantaneous adjustments to the turbulence of the marketplace. There is simply no alternative if you want to stay competitive.


While we cannot slow the pace of change, we can use many strategies to speed up our own corporate processes. The only effective response to rapidly changing conditions is to develop the capacity to move at ultra-high speed – in other words, increase your operating velocity. While no one can realistically expect to move as rapidly as the constantly changing environment around us, those who can come closest will be best positioned to survive.

Things to change.  The only question is that since things are deteriorating so quickly, will society and man’s habits change quickly enough? Isaac Asimov-Futurist

Think Innovatively

Opportunities will be waiting for you in today’s business world if you can overcome resistance to new ways of thinking. What stops most companies from innovation is hesitation due to uncertainty. However, when you cast aside uncertainty and start to ask “what if,” you will unleash the unlimited possibilities of innovative problem solving that result in new profits for your organization.

As you search for innovative solutions to your business challenges, consider the following:

  1. Have I defined the problem accurately?
  2. Am I objective in my thinking?
  3. Is there a need for this solution that is economically viable?
  4. Am I avoiding issues that must be addressed?
  5. Does my thinking recognize its imperfections and liabilities?
  6. Have I substituted assumptions for facts?
  7. What are the weaknesses of this solution?
  8. Have I gained intellectual congruence with others?
  9. Is the solution intellectually honest?
  10. Am I applying the same standards to myself as I demand from others?
  11. Is this something others can use?
  12. Will others donate to my organization?
  13. What would happen if our competition came up with this first?
  14. What if we don’t act quickly?

The key is to recognize the competitive power of speed and to turn the pursuit of innovation into a central organizing principle in your company and career.

Innovation is more than a new method. It is a new view of the universe, as one of risk rather than chance or of certainty. And this means that innovation, rather than being an assertion of human power, is an acceptance of human responsibility. Peter Drucker, Consultant- Author, Speaker

Market Creatively

One essential practice to integrate into your organization's business strategy is superior donor communication. You can strengthen your donor relationships by introducing your organization’s innovations without technical jargon. We all have seen new products introduced with a fanfare of technical terms so complex that companies may as well be speaking a foreign language to their customers. The same occurs with many charities, You can avoid this mistake by talking to your donor in terms they can easily understand. They will be grateful for your ability to communicate clearly, and you will be giving them intelligible information they can relay to others.

Have a vision. Have Courage. Understand your donor. Engage the premise of ‘What If?” “What’s Next?’ “What’s Possible?”

The individual activity of one man with backbone will do more than a thousand men with a mere wishbone.  William J. H. Boetcker- American religious leader and influential public speaker

Implement Swiftly

Just as action ultimately accomplishes far more than pure analysis, speed will beat perfection every time in today’s business environment. Because failure is interwoven with success, you must create a safety zone in which everyone understands that failures will not curtail attempts to succeed. Learn from your failures and then quickly overcome them.

The most important thing I can suggest is to reconnect with your donors. Send a Valentine’s Day card; remember their birthday or anniversary. Simply drop them a handwritten note with an article about your organization or invite them to a Board of Directors meeting.  Go to LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and find your donors. Drop them a note and inquire if you can support them by joining their network or offering a recommendation.  Moreover, send ‘freebies.’ Think about what you donor might need or find interesting or relevant. If you can’t make it relevant make it immaterial. Make Styrofoam cutouts or cardboard in the shape of the letter “B”…get it?  Free B’s?

Man can believe the impossible, but man can never believe the improbable. Oscar Wilde- Playwright

Find More Prospective Donors

Have you ever wondered why some people in fundraising are always over quota while others seem to be always behind the plan? Why are some people highly successful in fundraising while others are not? So why do we see such wide variations in people’s success in fundraising today? Are some fundraising people just naturally better closers than others? Yes, maybe. However, I believe that there is something much more important going on here.

The answer lies at the start of the fundraising process:  Identification of an opportunity or prospecting. By simply finding more donor prospects, you will dramatically increase your success in fundraising. If you double the number of donor prospects and hold you are closing rate constant, you will, double the number of fundraising you make. So the secret to success in fundraising is ABP Always Be Prospecting.

There is a better way to do it. Find it. Thomas Edition -Inventor

Network with a purpose.

I suggest that you join one or two networking groups such as business groups or business luncheons. Lunch at Rotary Clubs, business clubs, associations, special interest groups, e.g. Toastmasters International, School or University Alumni’s.  Make it a point to join business-networking groups in which you can leverage your organization’s mission with those you meet. Everyone likes something, supports something, or believes they can impact something. All you have to do is find those that are in alignment with your objectives.

Don’t neglect traditional awareness by providing bylined articles, give a speech, or issue an opinion that relates to your organization’s objectives and mission. Authenticity is critical but that does not mean you can be controversial. For instance, no-kill animal shelters, stem cell research, etc. all have supporters and distracters. Either way you build awareness about what’s new, what interesting, and what’s going on in their community.

Discovers are often made by not following instructions: by going off the road by trying the untried. Leonardo da Vinci- Artist, Inventor, Sculptor

Network on the Web  

We all have access to an extraordinary range of powerful web-based tools to search out opportunities and prospects. You can use web search tools with laser precision to target new prospects. Join LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Yammer, Campfirenow, etc. Within those social media, networks are groups that have specific interests. Join those groups and search for groups that share similar interests. Go back to your core group of donors and ask them for referrals. Respect your core group of donors. Most surveys of donors reveal that only 13% of them are satisfied with the relationship that has been created with the organization that they contributed to or supported.

Use the web to blog. Use social media networks to prospect. Households that earn less than $100,000 a year account for almost half of the nation's charitable giving. Patrick Rooney of the Center on Philanthropy credits a scholar with the premise that we all enjoy ‘the warm glow of giving.’  Giving makes most people feel fortunate and giving makes them feel better.

Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed. Abraham Lincoln- Statesman, US President

Speeches and Public Appearances

Create leads by making speeches and other public appearances. This requires becoming a subject matter expert in your chosen field. This is easier than you may think. You are an expert already. You are knowledgeable and passionate about an area of interest that you clearly know more about than most people. Then accept every opportunity you can get to address a group, speak on your subject, be part of a panel, or participate in a discussion group, etc. It is all high visibility exposure and that is exactly what you are looking for in creating new possible donor leads.

People will come up to you afterward and give you their business cards. This is reverse psychology at its best. After you have spoken to a group, you are no longer the same person. You have been transformed into an expert, a guru; somehow, you have become superhuman. This makes everyone want to meet you, talk to you, and get your business card. Take plenty with you. Never, ever run out of cards at a meeting. Take double the amount of attendees. Offer to give them more than one card so that they can share your contact information. Use this technique to create pull, rather than push. So, put the odds in your favor. You will have people truly hoping that you will contact them because of your brief exchange of business cards.

Never close your lips to those to whom you have opened your heart. Charles Dickens-Author

Leverage Your Supply Chain

The idea here is to prospect amongst your suppliers, partners or competitors. In other words, look for fundraising opportunities in your “business eco-system”.  Talk to your suppliers and even your competitors.

For instance, if you are a no-kill animal shelter, you really do not compete with fundraising for Cancer or Diabetes. Share leads. Share resources. Why not?

In this way, they know you and your mission. Ask them for assistance and introductions. You are giving before you are getting and really helping them. Talk to your vendors. For instance, if you print a brochure ask the printer to keep samples and use them for his new business solicitation. Then the printer becomes your distributor. He talks about your organization and offers an introduction. If it works you will need more brochures and the printer gets the additional business.     We must not sit down and wait for miracles. Up and be going!

John Eliot-Evangelist

Leverage the network of Journalists

Journalists are well connected and knowledgeable about many things that are of interest to you and your business. They have a high-level view of what is happening in your field and they always know many important people. The sort of key people that you would like to know! Because Journalists speak to industry leaders, thought leaders in your sector, your competitors, and even your customers you need to get close to them and make them part of your virtual team.

Interview a Journalist. Yes, use deviant thinking and reverse the conventional roles. How? Invite a Journalist to participate on a conference panel that you are organizing. Ask them to present an industry overview or speak about future trends or challenges that your industry is facing. Why? 1) This gives you credibility because they are seen as an independent thought leader. 2) He/she will talk about you and your business to others afterward.

Get them to talk about you and your business. Invite or sponsor a Journalist to moderate an industry seminar or a customer event. Alternatively, ask them to speak about customer’s problems and solutions that are available today. Alternatively, ask them to present a specific case study. You and your solution will be associated with the Journalist’s presentation and remarks.

No matter how much work a man can do, no matter how engaging his personality may be, he will not advance far in business if he cannot work through others. John Craig, Mathematician

Ask for referrals?

How? Simple, you ask for them. Everyone that you meet is ready and willing to give you referrals – if you only ask. How you ask determines the number and quality of referrals you get. Here is a simple example: At the end of your next client meeting ask: “Can you suggest 2-3 colleagues of yours that may have the same needs or concerns as you?” Then ask: “Can I mention your name and refer to our discussion when I contact them?”

Write down the name, title, company, phone number, and email address for each referral. Confirm that you are able to use your contact’s name and refer to your organization and remember to thank them.

Offer random acts of kindness and referrals will come your way. Everyone has a referral…all you have to do is attract them to your organization. Referrals are alliances. The quality of the referrals creates potential alliances that have the potential to deliver big results.

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, "Make me feel important." Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.

Mary Kay Ash- Entrepreneur


Focus your passion on your organization. We all know this is not the best time to seek new donors but people still want to ‘feel good’ about giving. 

Focus on your ‘gap analysis between what you need and what your donors can provide. Remember giving in hard times tends to decrease because requests only come when the organization is in need of annual funding. Make it a point to contact your donors with birthday or anniversary cards. Send them clippings about your overall mission and success.

Focus on how much your organization could raise if your board members engaged in the fundraising process and remained excited about the good work you do.

I never worry about action, but only about inaction. Winston Churchill- UK Statesman

The Future is Now

To survive and compete in the new ‘giving’ environment, you will have to create and maintain an organization model that recognizes the supreme importance of urgency and speed.

You must learn to anticipate your donor’s future needs, which will be fueled by a new type of demeanor that is constantly changing. As you develop your creative strategies, your organization will be building a bridge to future success. Make speed and urgency core values by placing them at the center and not the periphery of your action plan.

    Make Donors Feel Special.

    Reconnect with them.

    Innovate your approach.

    Encourage donor passion by showing your passion.

    Use Social media and the Internet to reach new prospective donors.

    Try something new. Discard what doesn’t work.

    Help donors find the confidence to give.

Give before you get should be the mindset for success in networking. Your effort will be rewarded generously over time. Finally, make it a habit.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What’s the Next Step?
  2. What is in the way?
  3. How do I remove the obstacles that prevent me from getting a donor interested in my organization?
  4. Am I listening or talking?
  5. What am I going to do differently tomorrow that will get me better results than I got yesterday?

Repeat 1-5 by doing so, you will be well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities the future will surely provide.  

Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.

Benjamin Disraeli-Prime Minister for England

About Jim Feldman

Named one of the Most Innovative People of the last century by Incentive Magazine, his role is to assist your organization in giving your people "what they need" to perform so that they can provide your organization "what it needs" to succeed. His message is TRANSFORMATIONAL, not informational or transactional.

For more information:


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