We’ve just completed the third in our series of surveys to fundraisers who joined our Vital Signs Panel.

The most important question we asked was: "As you adjust your fundraising plans for 2009, what are the three most important strategic changes or emphases you’re likely to make?"

It was an opened-ended question. Rather than try to interpret for you, here in some broad categories is what your fundraising colleagues said … straight from the horse’s mouth. (We did delete direct duplications, but mostly included cases where respondents said the same thing with diferent words, to give you a better feel for responses.)

General Strategy

  • Mail to best audiences only
  • Increase events
  • Increase integrated marketing efforts
  • Focus on high netting programs
  • Call funding sources to see if they are likely to give money to our nonprofit this year
  • Enhancing benefits to members
  • Looking at ways to cut costs-i.e. more e-solicitations, lower cost mail packages
  • Bare bones budget and re-evaluating what our options are
  • Spend more time cultivating personal relationships
  • Sell assets
  • Unable to bring on needed staff
  • Reduce overhead/extraneous expenses wherever possible
  • Work with program staff on potential new program initiatives
  • Cut back on fundraising that does not contribute to net income
  • Using PURL mailings

Existing Donors

  • More contact with existing donors
  • Increase retention strategies
  • Increased stewardship, enhancing the number and messaging of non-solicitation communications with donors
  • Keep your donors closer
  • Improved donor relations
  • Mailing to our best segments and launching a monthly giving program
  • Very dedicated to the donors we have, especially any first-timers
  • Greater emphasis on monthly giving recruitment
  • Restrict telemarketing to top audiences only
  • First quarter match challenge
  • Less general appeals, more focus, more direct special appeals
  • Membership and chapter development
  • Improving renewal efforts
  • Step up efforts to retain monthly donors
  • Greater testing of downgrade and upgrade asks
  • Cut out appeals that cost money to folks who never gave in the past
  • Modify gift requests — don’t expect big increases
  • Additional donor updates and personalization


  • Spend a little less in DM acquisition; transfer to major giving
  • Modify volume and targeting of acquisition mailings
  • Focus on reactivation of lapsed donors
  • Mailing deeper into the lapsed file, where we’ve been seeing success
  • Manage acquisition subsidy VERY closely until we know what the economy is doing
  • Less aggressive testing in acquisitions
  • Running a more aggressive acquisition campaign
  • Increase acquisition efforts
  • Paring down acquisition somewhat


  • Provide lots of info about how the needs have increased
  • More targeted messages based on giving interest

Online Fundraising

  • Increase in the use of social marketing tools
  • Social Network Fundraising: using committed donors to find potential donors in their own social network. For a health organisation such as ours, this close network is invaluable
  • Targeted online giving
  • More online fundraising
  • More internet fundraising
  • More Web 2.0
  • Increase use of email–this was planned but will be further emphasized
  • Social network marketing (Facebook, etc)

Plus a couple of suggestions for your overall well-being:

  • Hope for change
  • Go to bed earlier

Not a bad checklist. And only two bullish "outliers" talking about increasing their acquisition efforts! Wish I knew their circumstances!


P.S. Here’s our previous Vital Signs posting.

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