Tag Archives: Exceeding Goals

Want to Learn a New Fundraising Trick?

It’s true. I am about to reveal the best new fundraising trick for your organization. Read on, it’s in Step 2.

Step 1: Start here:

  1. Have a strong case for support – Why is your organization is worthy of the donor’s philanthropy?
  2. Be creative. You are not the only nonprofit in your space – Know and share what makes you unique.
  3. Determine institutional priorities – what you want your donors to fund.
  4. Research your donors – understand your current trends (increased donor retention or decreased first time donor lapses).
  5. Decide which segment you want to focus your energy on this year.
  6. Research why this donor segment funds your nonprofit
    1. do they have a persona?
    1. what are their priorities?
    1. how they want to be reached? email vs mail vs social media.
  7. Thank them. Again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
  8. Keep in touch with them throughout the year – more than just solicitations

Step 2: Use the best new fundraising trick:

Dedicate time to do each one of the steps listed above.

Before you dismiss this (or think this is an old trick) consider:

Many of you know what needs to be done. But something else always takes priority. For example, there is something that you need to send out this week or there is one major donor who takes a lot of your time.

Just as you need to schedule vacation time, or doctors’ appointments, you need to schedule time to do the work—the right work. And don’t let other work—the urgent but unimportant– become a priority.  

The real trick knowing what is your priority, what provides the greatest return on your invested time. Know what you want and stay with it for the long haul so you get the expected and best new results.

If you, or anyone in your organization, would like to talk to us about how we can help you with the proven methods and the best fundraising trick this month, email me.

5 Surprising Ways Endowment and Capital Campaigns Are Different in 2022

Surprised? Capital campaigns are different in 2022
  1. Sticker Shock is not just for gas pumps. In the past week I have seen 3 client’s jaws drop when they saw the estimated costs of their building renovation plans. Supply chain issues, lack of workers, and rising demand are causing pricing – and estimates – to rise. There is no crystal ball to know what will happen in in 2023 and beyond but we should all be prepared for when the shovel hits the ground with even higher costs.  
  1. Endowments have value to donors. Pre-pandemic the idea of raising money for an endowment was tough without a capital element. Everyone liked an organization to have a large endowment – but few wanted to support it. There were some exceptions for those who were giving enough to name their own fund or “chair.” But many of those gifts came with restrictions.  Cut to 2022, when capital campaigns are different, and donors understand that there are economic uncertainties that are out of everyone’s control and an endowment provides stability. And annual resources. As well as security. And ensures the organization can weather the next downturn.
  1. Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) can be used for pledges. Well, sort of. While someone with a DAF cannot make a direct pledge, they can offer a non-binding letter of intent. The nonprofit cannot use it as collateral for financing as a regular pledge can be deployed. But the letter of intent will still enable a donor to indicate a larger gift, payable over multiple years. Such a letter acknowledges the donor’s intent to recommend a grant from their DAF for multiple years. Read more about DAF letters of intent from Fidelity here.
  1. Competition for major donations can be a concern after 2 years of holding off on asking. Most nonprofits who started to consider a feasibility study and/or capital/endowment campaign in 2019, 2020, or 2021 are all looking to 2022 to raise money. This can be good for organizations who engaged donors during the pandemic -they remember you and still value you! And a lot harder if you held off contacting your donors. Either way, there will be a lot of nonprofits asking for capital and endowment gifts this year. In other words, if you are thinking about it, don’t hold off too long. Or you may find your donors have committed to other campaigns.
  1. Markets are unsettled which means you may have to be creative about how donors want to give. You can write a five-year gift of $100,000 as $10,000 this year, $20,000 for 3 years and $30,000 in the 5th year. Or vice versa. Maybe they don’t want to start until 2023. Or they want to give it all now. Or whatever the donor wants. We believe in “campaigns of one.” You strategically plan for the engagement, solicitation, and stewardship for each donor within a campaign. Just be aware that if they rely on financial markets for income they might not feel as secure as they did a year ago. I guess some things about capital campaigns are different in 2022, and some are not.

Interested in learning more about a feasibility study to know if your community would support an endowment or capital campaign? Set up a time to have a free 30-minute consultation with Abigail or David

Is Analyzing Year-End Numbers For Your Nonprofit Just A Distraction?

This is another strange January. Just as we thought we were out of the worst of the pandemic we are living with more cases of Coronavirus in our lives. We are all impacted by the surge whether it is in our immediate family (I hope you and yours are all well) or simply that buildings are closed, and we are back to days filled with Zoom meetings.

I find that it is sometimes hard to set aside blocks of time to concentrate on higher level projects. I think of Dug, the dog in the Pixar movie, UP, that gets distracted mid-sentence by squirrels. For me, the “squirrels” (read: calls/emails/kids/Apple Watch alert/dog/noise outside/truck passing 3 streets over/idea that I may have to reorder coffee/etc.) that I used to be able to ignore, now grab my attention faster than I can blink. But I still need to get things done. Things like analyzing year-end numbers before the end of January.

Here are some statistics to create for your nonprofit if you are analyzing year-end numbers.  And something to return to when you realize you have spent too long looking out the window at the squirrels.

Understanding annual fund trends are essential when planning for the next year. How can you create realistic goals or targets for segments if you don’t know where you currently stand. Now is a good time to calculate:

  1. Your month over month for 2020 vs 2021. Yes, 2021 was unusual. But so was 2020. It’s unclear when we will have the next “normal” year. It is time to plan for the unexpected each and every year. And you should start with your actual data.
  2. What percentage of your donations came in during December? I think it is a valuable data point when analyzing year-end numbers.
  3. Your basic donor statistics including: * If you are unsure how to do this get in touch
    • Percent of donor retention
    • Number of donors who increased their gift
    • Number of donors who decreased their gift
  4. How did your letters, emails, phone calls, social media posts, etc. impact your donations? Was one letter more successful than another? Did one topic or aspect of your end-of-year campaign attract a higher response? Has your social media affected your site traffic?
  5. Your major donors year-over-year including:
    • How many major donors did you retain? You want it to be higher than your average donor retention rate since you are spending more time focused on this group.
    • How you interacted with each donor to upgrade/ retain the gift and whether it had an impact (a good contrast is to pick someone who didn’t get the same love and attention without judgements. It’s hard to reach everyone with limited time and resources)
    • What you should plan for this year based on what provided a great return on your time/energy investment and what did not. Be honest. You may have loved your social media reminders but did they help increase results?
  6. What big projects you want to accomplish in 2022.
    • Are you thinking about a capital/endowment campaign?
    • Was your annual fund all it needed to be in 2021?
    • Do you need to talk to MJA about your needs (I thought I would throw that in here since it is our blog)

If to you, this blog was another squirrel, as a distraction from doing something else, it can be justified. Use it to help you analyze your year-end results.

If you want a real distraction, here is the first scene from the Pixar movie, UP, that started the squirrel meme.

The Key to Successful Fundraising is Stop Thinking About Your Nonprofit

Key to Successful FundraisingI have talked about this topic a bit when opining on annual appeal letters and solicitor training but after a recent conversation, I thought it should be said again. And said in a straightforward, no nonsense way.

The key to successful fundraising is stop thinking about your nonprofit. And start thinking about donor.


Finding out what motivates the donor to give.

Some people like their names on buildings. Others like the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they watch a video that includes the children who attend the community center thanking them for their support. Still others like to dress up and help create an extravagant gala. Very different motivations but all valid and all should be considered when soliciting a gift.

Discovering why the donor likes your organization. 

Is it because they feel that their child is having a good experience at your school? Or, because they think you are the best advocates in the area for animal welfare. Maybe they think their association with you is good for their image.  The key is knowing, what do they think?

Asking for the right gift

Someone who likes galas might not want to give to your annual fund. But, they may be willing to join the gala committee, increase their personal gift, and encourage their friends to join them. Another donor who gives to your annual fund may like to give to the December appeal, or they may be ready to learn how they can fund a new program.  Knowing your donors giving history/patterns, their interests, and how much they give to other organizations can help you craft the right ask.

Knowing the right time to ask

Your fiscal year end will not affect a major donor’s donation timing as much as their year-end bonus or their annual fundraising check writing session in December.  Your calendar is not as important as the donors.  No matter how much you wish it were different.

Thinking about who should make the ask

Your most successful fundraiser is not the best fundraiser for every donor. Consider who the donor knows, or might like to get to know. Create pairs of solicitors so that there is twice as much listening going on.  It is about the donor, and deepening their connection to your nonprofit.


If you want to retain donors and move then from entry level to mid-level, or mid-level to major gifts, stewardship is the key.  A planned approach that incorporates calls, emails, updates, invitations, thank yous, coffees, etc. takes time. But it is the path to a stronger relationship with the donor. Which, in turn, will help with donor retention and raising more money.

Refining your fundraising processes takes time. But if you start to considering fundraising from the donor’s perspective, you will understand it is a marathon, not a sprint. One bit of caution, if you wait another six months or year with excuses as to why you can’t start changing your fundraising yet, you are putting off your growth.  And probably losing quite a few donors along the way. Start considering the donors’ POV ASAP.   

The Tradeoff of Time vs Money in Fundraising – 7 Considerations

Tradeoff of Time vs. Money in Fundraising We all know the adage, time is money. Nonprofits often think volunteer time is better to spend than precious dollars. But is it really?

And in the time of the pandemic, is there more time or less?

The Tradeoff of Time vs Money in Fundraising

Let’s say that you don’t want to spend money on a fundraising consultant for a capital campaign.  You believe you can do it on your own – you have a dedicated group willing to put in the work.

Can you get the same fundraising results without investing the money in a nonprofit consultant like Mersky, Jaffe & Associates? No, time is, literally, money lost. Money lost by not knowing:

  1. How much to ask for. Most clients underestimate the ask amounts of all but the very highest and lowest donors.
  1. How to ask. We train solicitors to ask for seemingly outrageous donations, to overcome any objections to the campaign during a solicitation, and how to be persistent without being pushy during each step of the process. For instance, an untrained ear will hear “no,” and walk away. We teach solicitors to listen to hear if they are really saying “I need more information” or “not yet.”
  1. Marketing materials are a huge distraction. The weeks you spend holding off fundraising while crafting the perfect marketing materials will not improve your outcome. Marketing is within many capital campaign committee members’ comfort zones so it is not surprising that it is deemed essential before you can do anything else.  Truth: Many a failed campaign have had beautiful pieces. When we are called in to help with a stalled or unsuccessful campaign, we are almost always shown interesting, well produced marketing materials. Instead, we help you create a strong case for giving to your worthy organization – in a nice piece that an outside designer can work on while you are moving through your fundraising plan.
  1. How to create a fundraising plan with action items.  You need a campaign fundraising plan that leads you through your prospects in a methodical way. Who do you approach first? Who should be in your second, third or fourth round of solicitations? We help you avoid a scattered approach and focus on those who can make an impactful gift to the campaign.
  1. Who to ask.  Most clients have hidden gems in their donor database. Sometimes they will be low level, long-term donors with high capacity. Other times they will be people giving at a mid-level range that could easily be a major donor. We help you find the best prospects. And, help you determine when is the best time to ask them for a gift to your capital campaign.
  1. The potential for the overall goal.  What would you do if we could discover that you could raise $2,500,000 over your current goal? Our feasibility studies help predict accurate, achievable goals. Potentially, a goal you would not even consider without advice from someone like us.
  1. It just takes longer without counsel.  There is a lot to learn on the internet. In fact, MJA has 118 articles, before this one, that reference a capital campaign. It takes a lot of time to understand best practices, fundraising techniques and capital campaign strategies.  Time that could be spent raising money instead of watching construction costs rise.

If you still think the tradeoff of time vs money in fundraising without counsel is worth it, here is a link to the 118 other articles on capital campaigns. No judgements – this is why we write them.

If you would like to speak with us about your upcoming (or stalled) capital campaign, email me and we can start the process today.

What Makes a Successful Fundraising Campaign?

Pieces of a successful fundraising campaignRecently, a prospective client asked whether we thought that they had the resources for a successful fundraising campaign. They were questioning whether their staff had time to dedicate to a new fundraising initiative, their current database could manage the new data, and whether they would have enough volunteers to get the work done. Those are important pieces of a successful campaign that help strengthen their results. But, there is one additional consideration that few nonprofits consider:

Will they do what they say they will do. 

Will the volunteers and staff:

  • Show up and/or call into campaign committee meetings? (and participate in the discussions)
  • Take on assignments? (and not only the lowest hanging fruit)
  • Make the appointments? (this can often be the most challenging piece of the solicitation)
  • Follow up after each appointment? (sending a personal thank you note, informing the administrator so they can send out a pledge form, acknowledgment of the gift and thank you note from the organization, inform the board president so he/she can send a letter, etc)
  • Share their experiences with the committee? (the elements of the case statement that excited someone and/or how someone handled a new objection to the case are great learning opportunities)
  • Take on new assignments? (whether you are looking to improve your annual fund or you are working on a capital campaign – there are a lot of prospects to get to)
  • Rinse and repeat? (a campaign takes time – maybe months, maybe years – be prepared for what it will take to achieve your fundraising goals)

A successful fundraising campaign is within your reach – if, before you begin, you understand what it takes to finish.

Email me if if you want to know more about how MJA can help your next campaign be successful.

The Return on Investment for a Capital Campaign with Mersky, Jaffe & Associates

return on investment for a capital campaign

When prospective clients, fellow board members, or friends in the nonprofit world ask whether they should consider working with MJA, I often tell them we are very effective, but not inexpensive. I admit that the answer is a bit conceited, but we are a great team with hundreds of combined years of experience. And I see what is achieved through our client work.

What is effective?  What is “not inexpensive?” It was time to offer quantifiable proof.  I asked David to analyze the numbers behind a handful of recent capital campaigns where we served as nonprofit consultants and I can let the numbers speak for themselves.

The return on investment for a capital campaign with MJA ranges from 1,292% and 8,466%.  That is not a typo- 8,466%!

Broken down:

Amount Raised with MJA ROI
$6,200,000 3,067%
$6,700,000 8,466%
$2,300,000 1,292%
$9,750,000 3,148%
$11,000,000 4,302%

I guess I was right – while we are not the lowest priced nonprofit consultants, we get impressive results.  And this chart is the proof.

If you want to know how we can help you experience similar return on investment for a capital campaign, email me today by clicking here

For more articles on capital campaigns consider:

Ten Reasons Ways to Ensure Your Nonprofit Fundraising is Effective

Value the Nonprofit Donor More than the Donation

The Nonprofit Leaders Guide to a Capital Campaign Vol. 1 of 12

For more ariticles on Mersky, Jaffe & Associates consider:

The Habits of Highly Successful Fundraising

What Nonprofit Consultants Don’t Tell You





Are You Incorporating these 9 Short-term Fundraising Goals into Your 2017 Plan?

Short-term fundraising goals 2017Yesterday, my daughter told me that we are five-eighths through the school year.  For those in nonprofits, that translates into two months into the calendar year and two-thirds through a June fiscal year. If you haven’t already, it’s time to focus on the short-term fundraising goals to help you achieve your nonprofit’s vision for the year.

Let’s define what a short-term goal is.  For every organization it will be slightly different, but for the sake of this article we will define it as an objective to be achieved within three months.

This year you could consider adding fundraising goals that include:

  • Meet with 13 new donors (one donor a week)
  • Determine 1 new strategy to increase membership (will implementation be possible too?)
  • Write down one new success story. Ask one other staff or board member to do the same
  • Meet with 13 new prospects—people who might become new donors
  • Perform a prospect research screening and identify 10 prospects or donors who are hidden gems.
  • Find 5 new foundations that have similar focus (don’t eliminate any based on deadlines as your goal is to find the foundations, not find new foundation funding in the next 3 months)
  • Make 13 additional donor “touches”
  • Consider 1 best stewardship practice that you are not doing but should incorporate into your fundraising program
  • Look closely at your board committees and consider which need more members, clearer direction, or new leadership

Don’t be greedy.  Pick one or two and incorporate them into your already busy schedule.  Moderate change is easier to incorporate than a total overhaul in the absence of a major reorganization of staff, staff responsibilities, and/or overcoming budgetary constraints.

This is not to dismiss long-term fundraising planning, but, if you are too focused on the long game, it is hard to feel good about what you are achieving now.  And these short-term fundraising goals can help you achieve your long-term goals in a methodical way. It’s not too late to start planning ways to improve your fundraising for 2017, but you have to start.


Motivating Yourself To Make An Ask For a Donation

Are you willing to ask for a donation?

The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.
-Dale Carnegie

“If you’re not asking them for money, someone else is.”
– Abigail Harmon

Recently, I have spoken to a few friends/colleagues who are frustrated by their inability to ask for a donation.  There are plenty of reasons why this occurs:

  • The board has decided that this is not the kind of organization that asks people for specific amounts (which is usually followed by, “this has always worked for us in the past”);
  • There are potential donors but it is too soon to ask them for anything substantial;
  • We’re not sure we have a strong enough relationship for the kind of money he/she has potential to donate;
  • I’m not sure we have a strong enough case;
  • We need to create a plan for this type of donor;
  • We want to ask him/her for a major gift next year so we don’t want to ask him/her for a small gift this year; or
  • fill in the blank __________.


If you have a new prospect who has only been involved in the organization for under a year and you truly are developing a plan of action, determining how to get the donor more involved and deepening your personal relationship, don’t listen to what follows – you are on the right track.
If you have known the person for more than a year, I want to challenge your excuses  – I mean reasoning.  What makes you think that this year will be the year that you have all of the necessary information and you will be ready to move forward with confidence?  In other words, where are you going to find the time and resources to steward and cultivate this person?  When are you going to spend the time or money on prospect research?  What are you going to change in order to achieve your goals? It is time to ask for a donation.

Hire a consultant?

Mersky, Jaffe & Associates is often used as a motivating factor – the same reason Dale Carnegie made millions as a motivator (not that we are comparing ourselves to Dale Carnegie), but we are also called into initial meetings to ask the questions that you can no longer avoid.

  • How long have you been running a deficit?
  • Do you know how you are currently paying for the deficit?
  • When will you run through your endowment?
  • Which is more important to your organization, keeping a low-key culture where money is not discussed or ensuring the achievement of the mission and the fulfillment of the vision?

I say initial meetings because our successful clients know that they have a problem and they are truly looking for a solution.  They are not looking for someone to come in to save the day with a quick fix. They are looking to learn how to change their culture, make development core to their enterprise and ensure their organization is on stable ground for years to come. They are looking to understand how to ask for a donation again and again.

Closing Thought

Now, because this is my article, I will pose one more question for you to digest – why is a consultant considered expensive, but running through your endowment because of a fear to act is considered a reasonable solution?


Want to read another of MJA’s 10 Essential Articles? Click here

Learn more about Solicitor Training by clicking here

Consider Why You Shouldn’t Take It Personally When a Donor Says No by Clicking here


Note: this post was originally published in 2010 and updated in 2017








How do you improve your solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems?

Chapter 1: What would help your nonprofit raise more money in 2017?

How do you improve your solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems?

While solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems may not seem like high priority to those new to fundraising, staff and board in the trenches know that speed, accuracy, and staff capacity is often determined by the systems employed by the nonprofit.

A good data management or CRM system includes tracking, a calendar, reminders, a place to write notes, and staff/volunteers to input information on a timely basis. Let’s look at three of the larger systems problems, and some solutions.

1 – You don’t use your software to its fullest.  Most people use a small portion of their software’s capabilities.  That’s true for everything from word processing to your fundraising software.  Invest in the time to learn the best ways to manage your prospect and donor relationships.  Without knowing what you use I can tell you that there are training guides, videos and opportunities to ask an expert that you could be using to create a better experience. Most people don’t because it takes time away from task and they think they know enough. Assume you don’t and learn the tricks that are unique to that system.

2 – Years of turnover in staff and volunteers have left your systems a mess. It’s an old story, a new person comes in, wants to hit the ground running and creates new codes in the systems that work better for him. Or he simply can’t understand why they would need codes A, B & C when he needs codes H, I & J. He starts working within his comfort level but doesn’t get rid of the old codes.  Next thing you know there are codes from various people that no one fully understands.

Now is the time to fix it.  It doesn’t mean you need a new system. You might, but first you should do a bit of forensics—figure out what is going on. Then, take time to get cleaned up.  The good news is that you can use this refresh to steward donors.  It is a great excuse to call a major donor asking to understand some of their history with the organization and initiate a new relationship.  Of course, if you do this multiple times, the nonprofit will seem inept.  In other words, fix what is wrong, establish protocols, document them, and then keep the system that way.

3 – Retrieving information takes too much time.  You have all this information, but if it takes you too long to determine who gave last year to the annual fund in December, 2015 but did not renew in December, 2016, how much those who gave increased or decreased their gifts and/or who solicited them last year, you should consider something new.  If it is too complicated to get the information out, no one will look for this data on a regular basis.

The ease of collecting donor and prospect information can be the difference between examining the data in late December and waiting until things settle down in January or February.  Those donors who did not give a gift to you in 2016 may have reallocated those funds or simply forgotten, but the result is that neither your nonprofit or the donor prioritized the relationship. Either way, your donations are down and those donors are now LYBUNTs causing you even more work.  Free and low cost software may seem like it saves you money, but not if it costs you donations.

If your systems are not what they should be, create a team to (volunteer and staff) explore and find an alternative and get working.  The sooner you have stronger systems, the easier it will be to raise more money in 2017. 

How did this series come about? Click here to find out.

Read Chapter 2: A Stronger Fundraising and Development Committee