The Three Buckets Of Fundraising

Events:  The MOST EXPENSIVE bucket.

Events are the most inefficient way of raising money.  Most fundraisers and volunteers are not aware of the cost of staging events to raise money.  We’re talking about dinner events, special speakers, galas, tournaments, doughnut sales, carwashes and the like.  

The ROI from an event is far less than other fundraising options.

The average cost of raising a dollar with events is fifty cents.

A nonprofit’s development cannot be driven by events.  

Many nonprofits zero in on events as their life-saving panacea.  It’s all they know. 

Famed fundraiser, Terry Axelrod says, 

“Somewhere along the line, good people who love the work being done by their favorite organizations got sidetracked into the entertainment business.  They figured that, rather than having to talk to people about the amazing and meaningful work of their organization, if they could just entertain people, give them some good, honest fun or a product in exchange for their money, they’d have a winning fundraising event.”  

“While those events may raise short-term money - in many cases a lot of money - they generally are not designed to grow and develop the base of people who truly support the work of the organization.”

Not only are there direct costs to do an event, there are indirect costs that are often not calculated.  What about the costs of the director’s time?  The staff?  The volunteers?

Many nonprofits zero in on events as their life-saving panacea.  It’s all they know. 

And too many events kill the existing staff.  Most are already underpaid and overworked.  The last thing they need is another event.  Why would we ask them to spend so much time and energy on something with such low return?  

Donor Development:  The MOST EFFICIENT bucket.

Organizations that work to understand their donors and help them accomplish their personal goals get the most efficient bang for their buck.  This involves walking side-by-side, partnering with, investing in, and working to bring them into our giving community in ways that consider their needs first.  

The average cost to raise a dollar through donor development is between 5 and 10 cents.  

Developing donors involves an organization taking the responsibility to understand their donors desires and interests and working to make them come true.  When a donor’s desire and interests cross with an organization, a relationship occurs.  It is this art of relationship building that releases donors to give in ways that events cannot.  In donor development, organizations listen their way to major gifts.  

Planned Giving:  The LARGEST bucket.

Planned giving is widely considered to have the highest ROI of any type of fundraising:  Fifty six dollars returned for every one dollar spent!  Some estimates put the ROI at 100:1!

According to Russell James, only 5% of Americans have made a charitable bequest commitment while 33% are willing to consider it.

As the Baby-boomer generation passes on, the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world will occur.  

Did you know that donors who receive a letter directly asking for a bequest are 17 times more likely to give a bequest than donors who are not asked?  That, donors who are asked and thanked give twice as much as those who are not thanked?

Another benefit to bringing developed donors into the planned giving bucket:  Their giving after leaving a bequest in their will increased by 75%.

Does your organization send that one letter per year asking donors to consider a bequest? Is there a special page on your website outlining your case for that gift?

Every nonprofit should have a clear plan to move from bucket one, events, to bucket two, donor cultivation and bucket three, planned giving. Without that plan they are cursed to do events ad nauseum.

Selah… Pause and think about that.

The Most Expensive Real Estate On Your Website

If you take two identical homes and place one on a waterfront property and one inland, the home on the waterfront, nationally, will be worth more than twice the value of the other one. The homes are the same. The only difference is the location; yet, the price difference is great.

In the same way, all parts of your website are not equal in value.

The most "expensive" and important part of your website is the landing page. This is that part of your website that people land on after searching for somewhere to spend their money.

“…the home on the waterfront, nationally, will be worth more than twice the value of the other one.”

The landing page is where consumers give your business a three to five second chance to influence them with pictures and words.

“The most "expensive" and important part of your website is the landing page.”

Three to five seconds. You see, consumers don't buy the best products and services, they buy the products and services that are communicated the quickest.

That makes your landing page the absolute most expensive and important part of your website. There is a reason why the bottom of that same page is called the "junk-drawer."

“…consumers don't buy the best products and services, they buy the products and services that are communicated the quickest.”

Knowing this, successful businesses don't put pictures of their founder, their president, their staff or even a picture of their building on their landing page. Businesses that outperform the rest make sure their landing page clearly speaks to the internal and external problem their organization solves. Consumers arrive at a landing page based on an external need. But, they make marketing decisions based on their internal need.

“…successful businesses don't put pictures of their founder, their president, their staff or even a picture of their building on their landing page.”

Organizations that outperform their competitors clearly understand the external and internal need of the consumer and leverage the power of their most expensive piece of web site real estate: The Landing Page!

Northern Lights: One Woman, Two Teams, and the Football Field That Changed Their Lives

A number of years ago my path crossed the path of an amazing lady, Cathy Parker.

At the time she was a part of a fundraising team in Valdosta Georgia that saw the Boys & Girls Club there funded at remarkable levels. She added her influence to efforts to do the same in Quitman, Georgia and the South Georgia House of Hope.

Her story has been highlighted on ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, CNN…

I had heard of her, sought her out, and asked her for a few minutes of her time. I wanted to know her story. How did she become such a powerful influencer and fundraiser? We instantly became close friends and she has become one of my mentors. Now, her story is chronicled in the upcoming new book and movie, Northern Lights.

Northern Lights is the story of how providence sneaks up on ordinary and everyday people and assigns them tasks that push them beyond their limits to make extra-ordinary impact on their culture.

More than a decade ago, along with sports fans worldwide, Cathy Parker watches an ESPN news highlight of an Alaska town trying to offer a higher path to their struggling youth. Plagued with a high drop out rate of 50%, drug abuse and suicide, Barrow, Alaska attempts to offer football at their only high school. But their attempts are met with hardship as the high school makes do with feeble resources, including a field that Parker describes as " unsightly mix of packed dirt, mud, and gravel." The players often received cuts, bruises and sprained ankles from the rocky surface.

Cathy’s story highlights the oft proven reality that, if we will allow it, out of our deepest places of pain often flow our greatest gifts to the world. Her pain revolves around football. In college she married her college sweetheart, Carl, a football player who upon graduation was drafted into the NFL and ended up at the Super Bowl his first year. Through a series of circumstances, the football career that took off so quickly, began to wane. Cathy details the story that leaves her saying, "I grew to resent everything about football."

Northern Lights is the redemptive story of how Cathy Parker's gift to Barrow Alaska flows from her navigation of the pains and disappointments of her past.

This is a story we can all benefit from!

Buy it now!

(I received an advance copy from NetGalley)

Mentors: Fixing the disconnect

Haven’t we all experienced the disconnect when someone that we know is a poor leader posts something about leadership online?  Or, in a conversation, they quote some leadership maxim as though as though they own it?  I am always amazed at the leaders who talk leadership, read and share leadership but are horrible leaders.  They read leadership books.  They quote magazine articles on leadership.  They post leadership quotes.  

But they are poor leaders. 

Their people remain undeveloped and never reach their potential.  Their companies don’t produce better people and superior service or products.  

These people talk leadership but don’t walk it.

What is the problem?  In my estimation, they lack true mentors.  

They lack the kinds of relationships that require personal openness and evaluation of their strengths and their weaknesses.  These kinds of relationships can sound scary. There must be a real desire to work on areas of weakness under someone else’s tutelage. 

These kinds of relationships can sound scary but the payoff is HUGE.

Studies tell us that leaders that accomplish great things and finish well all have one thing in common; they have all had great mentors in their lives.  According to Ron Lee David, the one most common characteristic in Nobel winners lives is that they were influenced by, and mentored by, someone else who had won a Nobel.  

So, mentors are good for us.  But how do we get them? 

Years ago, I remember meeting the Sr. VP of a very large international corporation in our city.  I knew that he managed millions of dollars and a very large work force that included a dozen or more VP’s that reported directly to him.  At that time our church only consisted of a few hundred people, and I was overwhelmed with the responsibility.  I couldn’t imagine managing all the resources that he directed here and abroad without living totally insane.  

It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.  I asked to meet with him and asked if he would give me some time and let me probe him about how he managed.  Would he give me a lunch hour?  Would he give me two lunch hours?  Three?  Would he consider more?  I would be grateful for anything he would give.  I also made it clear that anytime he would meet with me over lunch, it was on me!  

His response pleasantly surprised me.  He said that the moment we met, he knew I was being sent into his life to mentor him.  ME MENTOR HIM?  “I can teach you a lot about leadership and administration, David, but there are a lot of things about relationships that you can teach me.  Come to my office every Wednesday, my secretary will have a lunch waiting for us.”

“And,” he said, “I am paying, I insist!”

That executive met with me for about a year.  We enjoyed each other.  He examined my life and habits and I his.  When the time was up we both moved on.  We both were larger for our commitment.  

How do we get these kind of mentors? 



Just ask them.

Find someone who handles their money exceptionally well, and ask them to coach you in that area.

Find someone who has the kind of marriage you admire and ask them to coach you in being a good marriage partner.

Find someone who is a great public speaker and ask them to coach you in public speaking.

Find someone who knows how to invest money in the stock market and ask them to coach you.

Find someone who you admire in the way they parent their kids and ask them for some time.

Find someone who communes closely with God in prayer and ask them to teach you.

ASK someone to monitor your attitude and be honest with you.

ASK someone to monitor your calendar and be honest with you.

ASK someone to examine your parenting style and be honest with you.  

ASK someone to examine your business and be honest with you.

ASK someone to be real with you about your needed growth areas.

I have had mentors help me learn to read P&L and Balance sheets.

I have had mentors help me learn basic accounting.

I have had mentors help me learn parenting skills.

I have had wonderful mentors coach me in leadership.

I have had mentors coach me in administration.

I have had great mentors show me the path to God in prayer.

John Maxwell defines mentoring as "A willingness to pour our life into another person and share our life with them. A desire to live for the next generation.”

John Crosby's definition: "A brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on and a kick in the pants." 

How To Get Great Mentors:

Step one:  Make the quality decision to incorporate mentors into your life.

Step two:  Look for the mentors to show up in your life.

Step three: ASK them for some time.


Just say "Thank You!"

People are always floored when I ask them what they think most charities and churches do when someone gives for the first time.  Maybe you will be too? Ready?


How, Oh how can you GIVE your money to an organization for the first time and NOT elicit a personal response?  I am not talking about the automated reply in your email that says “thanks.”  That is acknowledgement.  I am talking about a person taking the time to actually say “Thank you.”

For years at my church, every time someone gave for the first time, I sent them a personal card welcoming them to our giving community, said thanks and sometimes gave them my personal cell number to call if they wanted to connect.  I always sent a card but sometimes I would call.  

I loved it when those same folks gave their children money to put in the offering envelope and they would scratch their name on it.  By the handwriting and gift amount you could almost always tell it was a child.  I loved handcrafting the note to “Mr.” or “Miss” on the envelope.  You could always count on those parents finding me at the next church service and telling me the effect that note had on their children (often with moist eyes).  “Before we get to church, our kid is bugging us about giving in the offering.”  

Selah. Pause and think about that…

Sometimes I would get a listing of all the people who had faithfully given for years and years and send them a note and just thank them for their consistency and commitment to our mission.  

What did that 5 minutes cost me?  Consider, if the gift was $5.  THAT TRANSLATES TO $60 PER HOUR.  Mentally calculating my supposed rate of pay always helped me do the job cheerfully.  What about that $100 gift?  At $100 for 5 minutes time, that is $1200 PER HOUR.  What about that $1,000 gift?  THAT IS $12,000 PER HOUR RATE OF PAY.  Uhm…who gets to work for those kind of returns?


I often give initial gifts to organizations and churches and wait for the welcoming note or call.  And, I am again and again disappointed when I get no response.  Don’t they realize that there is more where that came from? Does it really matter, the size of the gift?  

ALWAYS give a personal thanks when your organization receives a gift from a donor for the first time.  ALWAYS thank them.  Use it as your opportunity to get to know them.  See if you can determine their motivation.  They didn’t give for that reason, but a “thank you” sure helps them give larger and more often.

Churches need to say “thank you.”

Pastor’s need to say “thank you.”

Nonprofits need to say “thank you.”

MGO’s need to say “thank you.”

Director’s need to say “thank you.”

Need more money for your organization?  Start saying a personal “thank you” regularly and consistently.  

Oaks Among Directors Of Nonprofit Organization

MOULTRIE, Ga. — The South Georgia Nonprofit Network formed in 2018 to provide professional development opportunities to leaders of nonprofit organizations serving South Georgia.

Last month, the group named its officers and the other members of its board of directors, one of whom is from Moultrie.

Officers include President Becky Deas, of Options Now in Valdosta; Vice President Brian Flemming, president of the Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta; Secretary Bill Meli, volunteer services manager of Hospice of South Georgia; and Treasurer Steve Jaramillo of LARC of Valdosta.

In addition to those officers, the board includes four other members: Zoe Myers of Cook County Family Connection in Sparks; Jodie Snow of the ABAC Foundation in Tifton; David Oaks of WorldStage Development in Moultrie; and Lucas Ramirez of The Gathering Place in Brunswick.

Steve McWilliams, a 40-year veteran nonprofit manager, was appointed as SGNN’s first executive director.

The organization held a leadership conference in Valdosta in September, and its next educational event is planned for March 13 at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture Conference Center in Tifton. The workshop will feature leaders of the Georgia Family Connection Partnership in Atlanta and will introduce practices that have led the partnership to a notable record of collaborative success, SGNN said in a press release.

This article appeared in the Moultrie Observer, Feb. 5, 2019

Why people are choosing your competition over you!

Just this week, I saw a new business open in our town.

Before I went in,

Before I made a purchase,

Before I decided to do any business with them,

You know what I did… I GOOGLED THEM!

You do it too! We all do it! It’s just our habit now!

According to Forbes Magazine, 97% of consumers search for local organizations online.


That new business in town? THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE A WEBSITE. I found them on Facebook.

Yeah, I wonder if they will survive.

No website just made me think they were unprofessional.

Be honest, when a business doesn’t even have a website it affects what we think about them. What do we think?

Small time.


Don’t know what they are doing.

Every single day in your area, people are seeking for places to do business.


They are looking at your website.

They are checking out your reviews.


And, the more expensive the product, the more places they search! Google reviews, your website, Facebook, and LinkedIn (increasingly).

Let's just examine one thing: YOUR WEBSITE.


It’s your MOST important marketing tool.  It’s where first impressions are formed.  It’s where you get discovered.  It’s where new visitors are introduced to you.  

But, you say, we have a website!

Does the landing page (where people land when they come to your site) have a primary focal point? The focal point is the part of the website you see first.  Is it easy for your eye to fall on? 

Is the page crammed with information?  






If your page doesn’t pass the “grunt” test… People are moving on. Why?


According to a study from Google, website designs with “low visual complexity” were found to be the most appealing to users.  In other words…


Look at this site…Cluttered and unclear message. Very “busy” and “noisy”.

Look at this site…Cluttered and unclear message. Very “busy” and “noisy”.

Cluttered and unclear message…This site screams “OLD SCHOOL”!

Cluttered and unclear message…This site screams “OLD SCHOOL”!




Screenshot 2019-06-02 05.18.46.png

What a difference! Without all the “NOISE” you can “HEAR” the message!

Users LOVE simple and familiar designs.

The “Grunt” test:

The landing page should pass the “grunt” test:  You should be able to look at a website landing page for the first time for 3 or 4 seconds and be able to know EXACTLY what You sell.

That means being crystal clear in your message.

Grunt test, after 5 seconds:

  1. What do you do?

  2. How do you make my life better?

  3. How do I get it?

Something else to consider…  Google now tells us that the majority of internet traffic comes from mobile devices.  So much so, that if your site is not “responsive” (meaning, it doesn’t adjust its size and structure based on the dimensions of the device it’s being viewed with), Google will not send customers to your site

An unresponsive site sends potential customers to your competitor.

People are choosing your competition over you because they are googling you and going to the business that…

  1. Has a professional site,

  2. Has a clear message and

  3. Calls them to action.

Want help? I LOVE helping business get clear messaging and GROW LIKE CRAZY!