Digging our Blog!
Subscribe to the Feed.

We want you to SUGGEST
our next Blog topic!

Simply send it to

Alltop, all the top stories

Posts Tagged ‘ ML Wagner Fundraising Group ’

Raise More Money with Gift Envelopes

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

No matter your organizations’ size or budget, every nonprofit or professional fundraising consultant must have or recommend using gift envelopes in order for donors to send in their contribution(s). There are times to use postage-paid envelopes (Business Reply Envelopes or BRE’s), and there are times to use regular gift envelopes. Even so, no matter the type of gift envelope, I’ll tell you how to use them and immediately raise more money for your nonprofit.

As a fundraising consultant and trainer, I always emphasize how you can raise more money with gift envelopes simply by placing them in every piece of literature that goes out of your organization and into your community. This includes your annual report, newsletters, press kits, speaker’s bureau literature, agency brochures, invitations, fundraising letters, and thank-you letters. Yes, as an annual fund expert, I make sure all non profits fully understand the importance of placing reply envelopes into your letters which thank donors for their donation.

Let’s talk a bit about placing envelopes in your thank-you letters. In working with and training board members, there’s usually some resistance in adding this strategy to your fundraising plan. Many feel it’s greedy, sends a poor message and may even put you at risk of losing donors. I’ve worked with non profits of all sizes for over twenty years implementing this strategy, and I can tell you it’s not true. You will increase the amount of money you raise simply by incorporating the abundant use of reply envelopes into your fundraising strategy. Donors are more likely to view a gift envelope as a convenience. If you send out a significant amount of thank-you letters, you will begin to raise more money almost immediately.

This next gift envelope fundraising tactic may blow your mind; please trust that it works, the results Wagner Fundraising has tracked over the years speak for themselves. Many fundraising professionals understand that it’s important for a direct-mail program to send something to donors every month. As mentioned earlier, these monthly mailings are newsletters, fundraising letters, an annual report, open house invitation, and seasonal recognition opportunities; like Mother’s Day and holidays.

In preparing your direct mail annual calendar, you may find that there are a couple of months out of the year where you don’t have anything to mail to your donors. Test this tactic; prepare your direct-mail piece using your gift envelope as the ONLY insert. Again, during those two months when you don’t have anything of significance to send to your donors, place a gift envelope inside your mailing envelope and send using regular or bulk mail depending on the size of your mailing list. If you don’t believe it works, go to Wagner Fundraising’s website at wagnerfundraising.com and read endorsements from my workshop attendee’s and read how this tactic helped their giving increase.

Here are real statistics, from Wagner Fundraising Groups’ clients when using gift envelopes to raise more     money. A mailing was sent to 2,200 donors who gave twice or more in previous years. This group was defined due to their trend in sending more than one gift annually to that organization. This first “Envelope within an Envelope” mailing, as they called it, raised $14,566.50 and received two calls wondering where the letter was. In fact, this direct-mail tactic worked so well that they permanently added the “Envelope within an Envelope” mailing to their annual development strategy, and you should too.

An interesting finding in beginning to place gift envelopes in all organizational mailings is that other direct-mail campaigns do not suffer. You will understand and reap the benefits of witnessing that particular donors will give every time you sent them an envelope, regardless of the insert. When you begin to use gift envelopes in all of your mailings, you will raise more money, and you will realize the additional revenue within a year.

SMALL NON PROFIT? 10 Steps to Build your Fundraising Infrastructure

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

SMALL NON PROFIT? 10 Steps to Build your Fundraising Infrastructure


You do not need a state of the art fundraising software program – but you need something. Inexpensive programs to consider are: Telosa Exceed! Basic, eTapestry, DonorPerfect Online, Sage Fundaising 50 (formerly Paradigm).

Visit my website at www.wagnerfundraising.com/resources.html to download a well done spreadsheet with pros, cons, features and cost of the most common software programs. Fundraising software allows you to keep track of all your constituents. You have the ability to generate correspondence (thank you letters, pledge reminders, e-blasts). Whatever system you use, it must allow you to track all “personal interactions” between you and your stakeholders. You need the ability to update information easily, and generate lists of constituents by affiliation (dignitaries, staff, current donors, community groups, donors giving at a certain level or frequency). As a small non profit you require an easy to use program which can produce “canned” reports; the ability to run a query is nice, but requires some skill to get it right. The software purchase must come with technical support. If there is a glitch, tech support is priceless.

Upon the purchase of your software program, proper training is essential. Perhaps more importantly, one person should be responsible for entering data. This responsibility cannot be delegated to various volunteers; there is too much room for data entry error and lack of adequate training. Without reliable data entered into the system, into the right fields, all ultimate report generation is worthless.


It is rare to find a fundraising software program which integrates accounting/bookkeeping software. In fact most new non profits use Quick Books, or the Treasurer of your Board is responsible for keeping the books for ultimate IRS reporting.

Reconciling your fundraising software gifts or pledges with accounting is essential for two main reasons. First, it will let you know immediately if you are entering data incorrectly or have missed a contribution. You see, when you reconcile with a bank statement you KNOW that information is correct. Second, when you make your fundraising report to your Board you want your fundraising numbers for the month to jive with the numbers Accounting will be presenting. Otherwise, it’s an embarrassment and you will need to justify the discrepancy.



Yes, you have so many other things to do, yet without two specific procedures you will be bruised from kicking yourself. Here’s why.

First, you should have a fundraising procedure on how donations are handled; and I am talking about from the moment the postman brings in your mail to the point of the check being deposited. It’s an easy procedure to put into place. The person who gets the mail should sort what looks like a donation and the procedure will explicitly state they are not authorized to open that envelope. This person will take the unopened donation envelopes to accounting/bookkeeping. Once in the hands of the bookkeeper, the gift is opened, check is endorsed and two copies made. One copy for the person managing the fundraising software for gift entry and the second copy for accounting files. This way you only have ONE person handling the “cash”. If you are audited, they will hold you in high regard for having this procedure in place.

Second, you need a procedure for entering information into the fundraising database, including frequency of sending thank you letters. This procedure will include 1) who receives copies of checks,  2) who is responsible for gift entry, 3) how to enter specific information into the database (snag this information from your training manual and, 4) to reconcile your data with accounting each month.

What I have described above is a very simplified version of your procedures; it should  be much more detailed. Each step by step move must be documented should the person who is responsible leave. It would be a luxury to hire a professional fundraising consultant to assess your systems and write these protocols and it would be money well spent.


This policy will be a part of your data entry procedures manual, as many organizations will undoubtedly receive gifts made inkind. You need to define what is and what isn’t considered an “inkind” gift. An inkind gift that is needed by your organization is considered budget relief, because the item(s) was budgeted; meaning you would have had to purchase it had it not been donated. When you receive an inkind gift that is budget relief, you must have inkind listed as one of the methods of how the gift came to you. In your fundraising database it will be part of the menu that allows you to select if it was given by Visa, Cash, Stock, Inkind. You select inkind, because the gift is treated like cash, so the donor must provide you with the market value of that inkind gift.

If you receive an inkind gift that is not budgeted, that’s great if you can use it; however it is tracked differently, it would be tracked in the comments or other similar section of the donors profile in your database – but it does not appear in that donor profile as a gift. Having said this, you need to think about how to track these as they should receive acknowledgment as well, even though it is not budget relief.


Many organizations are made aware of grants available that seem to fit the mission. If a prospective grant is not clearly related to your mission, but would be nice to have; give it some thought and read the fine print. Oftentimes there are reporting requirements attached to the grant and it generates more work for an already overworked staff.

Here is an example: An organization was made aware of a grant for Canopy’s that provide shade for playgrounds. For a school it sounds great, right? However the grant required the school to create a curriculum on “protecting children from the sun or the potential for skin cancer”. They also required one person to manage the program. This curriculum was not part of the school’s mission or current curriculum, nor did they have staff available to manage the program. If the school were to have accepted the grant it would be called, in my words, “chasing the money”.

Make sure that each grant written and received fits your mission and supports your established programs. You want all money received to be directly attached to what your budget requires in order to hit your year-end goal.


When creating your website – seeing is believing. You should consider:

a. Your Mission is Clear: It should take only a couple of seconds for one to arrive at your site and know your mission.  People will expect to find the answers to their questions on  your website.

b. Be Donor-Friendly: Make it simple for people to donate. Your homepage should include one or more direct links to your donation page and they must be prominent.

c. Be Volunteer-Friendly: Oftentimes volunteers are as valuable as contributors. Create a link   or tab called Volunteers or How I Can Help. This will list volunteer opportunities and  information on how to begin the volunteer process. Always include the name, phone and email   of the person to contact directly if they want to help in anyway.

d. Be Press-Friendly: Include a link on your homepage for Media. This link takes them directly to your press kit: Include press-ready photos, pre-approved quotes by your organization’s representatives, a synopsis of your goals and how you’re accomplishing them, and a calendar of your activities. Also, provide the name, email, and direct phone number of anyone approved to represent your company. Finally, include any press coverage you’ve received on this page.

e. Add a Blog (only if you have time to keep up with it): A blog will increase your search engine ranking as well as keep visitors up to date on the goings on of your organization.  Link your blog to others of similar topic and interest; again, it will increase search visibility.

f. Include a Resources Section:  Link your site to others of similar value. It’s not a  competition,  it’s giving your visitors a great experience and sets you up as the place to go for information on  your specific mission.

g. Keep Your Content the Focus: Your website should raise money, encourage volunteers, and educate the public. To be successful,  make sure the content surrounding your mission is the most prominent aspect of your site’s design. Your site design should complement your content.

h. Update and Supplement your Website on a Regular Basis: Your site should be updated at least monthly. Otherwise it reflects poorly on your organization if content is outdated.


Take a half hour out of each day to walk through your offices. Ask questions, show interest, be affable (not threatening). Your daily self-tour shouldn’t be viewed as “checking up” on your employees, rather   the opposite -checking in to make sure they have all they need to do their job. Walking Management is better than an “open door” policy – you are going to your team and it creates an environment of trust and success.


A non profit requires a brand and identity just as any for profit business. You define your unique look and feel which clearly reflects your mission. Once your brand is   created, stay true to it. Don’t cut corners here. Every  piece of literature online or off line looks the same –  you want to bring your organization to the point where one only has to look at the colors, design and know it’s you – the organization name doesn’t need to exist.

A larger piece of this is ensuring that all working within the organization understands what it is that you do – they know the mission. If an employee is asked by anyone, “what is it that your organization does?”, all will have the same answer. At all staff meetings, I would commonly ask everyone to write down the mission statement, and those who got it correctly received some type of prize.


Many organizations create a 5 year strategic plan. Equally important is a yearly fundraising and   marketing strategic plan which includes a detailed, week by week calendar, along with who is responsible. This plan is review every two weeks and I consider it to be a “living, breathing” document; which means it will change and should. This plan should be in direct compliance with the organizations 5 year strategic plan and fundraising goals. For an example of a Fundraising and Marketing  Strategic Plan go to the Resources tab at www.wagnerfundraising.com/resources.html, and you will be   able to order a template.


Creating a functional and strong board is very simple. First, craft a job description which indicates expectations, including the amount they must donate each year. Second, host a board    training, and have each board member shadow a staff member for an hour; they will really know “their” organization after this experience. Last, have the following experts represented on your board: attorney, accountant, professional volunteer (one with resources and time), a person(s) who are   experts with regard to your mission, estate/financial planner, Employee(s) who represent your corporate donors.


Family Feud: How to Prevent Falling into the Board Member Conflict Trap

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Family Feud:  How to Prevent Falling into the Board Member Conflict Trap.

Amid these “Difficult Economic Times” (a term nearing cliché status), organizations are suffering – money lost through investments, down-turn in annual gifts and everyone pointing fingers; “Our Board Members won’t provide names or ask their social network for support”  OR , “Staff isn’t hitting fund raising goals, we need to trim budgets, cut staff and management will take up the slack”. A perfect storm for conflict, a family conflict. In my eyes, staff and board are family, and family dysfunction makes everyone uneasy and stagnant. 

The crux is, there seems to be more chatter about  board/staff conflict than ever.  It’s understandable, fundamental changes are required during times like these. More than ever before your Board and staff must bond together and find ways to change, remain relevant and effective. People are watching, particularly donors.

All the same, we know “change” begets discomfort and discontent.  Undoubtedly at the turn of every corner you will be reminded of and faced with resistance as you delicately mold your organization into a trimmed-down, lean-and-mean machine.  Did I just use “delicate and mean machine” in the same sentence? Yes, I did. Considering your best bet in delivering the goods is walking that fine line between diplomacy and standing  strong on firm ground. What you must avoid is ignoring those  grappling with  the transformation. Your organization requires everyone moving in tandem.  The unfortunate truth?  It’s extremely unlikely that everyone will; including board members. Internal conflict is brewing.

Board conflicts are among the most challenging a nonprofit executive faces. They generally come in two forms—conflicts among board members and conflicts between the board and management. Both of these difficult situations require special consideration. Oftentimes, the Board and Executive Team are aware of the conflict, take sides and continue on as if all is well; until income dwindles and despite all efforts, recovery is unattainable.

If this sounds familiar; let me tell you, it almost always takes a third party (preferably a professional fundraising consultant) to come in and fix the “fundraising” problem. Any good consultant will suspect, fairly quickly, that internal conflict launched the loss of funding. Yet, there is confidence in a brighter future. I’ll tell you why. When greeted with this situation, I’m mindful of the job at hand. I am there to fix fundraising; the internal conflict is a vexing side-effect. But you do need to care for the side-effects before you can fix the fundraising. Here’s how:



1) Identify your key stakeholders. Who “gets” it and will work hard to salvage relationships.

2) Don’t get pulled in. Assumptions will be made that you’ve taken a  side. The solution is to not have “side” conversations. Whenever possible involve those key stakeholders in all conversations and decisions.

3) Understand the relationships among your board and staff. Who is aligned with whom?

4) Understand the genesis of the problem. Once you have create a value proposition (reciprocal benefit) for each of them.

5) Address problems immediately. Determine the best person to address those brewing issues.

6) Specifically Align your Key Stake Holders to the organization’s “Fundraising Recovery Plan”

7) Ask for help, and show that you are willing to listen and change

Once you have appraised the situation, put your recovery plan (this isn’t the blog on the resurrection of an annual fund – look for that in April) into place understanding that it MUST bring the staff and board into alignment. The money will follow. Here’s how:


1) Policies: Do Board member policies need to change? What are their expectations? Are they aware of their expectations? Are board members trained and given the organization “elevator speech”?

2) Job Description: If the answer to Q1 is NO, then are Board Member Job descriptions in place? Are Management Job Descriptions in place OR up-to-date?

3) Giving: Is it abundantly clear that “Family Gives First”? We are not just talking about our volunteer board members; staff must contribute and that should be clear (the amount for staff giving is less important than the simple act of giving any amount). 100% participation – Right? Right!

4) Recruitment Practices:  Is the Board diverse, representing all aspects of the organization: Legal, Finance, Community Volunteer (with a strong social network), Member’s Representing the Mission, and Money Managers.

5)   Board Meeting Inclusion: Are board meetings open to staff members? If not, open the door. While it is appropriate to have a portion of the meeting “closed” as an Executive Session; but then open the doors to those on the front line, your staff.

6)   Relentlessly communicate the same vision, values and mission. Whether you ask the person vacuuming the floor or the President of the Board, “What is this place? What do you do?”, all will respond will the same answer. Everyone understands why they are there and they are PROUD

7)   Provide multiple opportunities for staff input

8)   Issue staff progress reports and successes regularly

9)   Create a culture of openness, you are a family

10) Be present – both physically and emotionally

11) Motivate, energize, and reward staff quickly for positive results in moving forward

12) Gather Board and Staff together whenever possible, eliminate division and unite your family

If the above practices are put into place as part of the “Fundraising Recovery Plan” you will have the Board and Staff aligned and working together with joy and a renewed sense of enthusiasm. For those who do not “get it”; they must be cycled off the board or if staff, they must be let go. Just as Enthusiasm Breeds Enthusiasm. Poison Containments the Well. And that Well is money. What can you expect when Board and Staff are aligned?


!    Your resources (fundraising) will grow

!    Your Brand and Name Recognition is Amplified

!    Synergy equals sustainability and growth

!    Energy is spent on creating a fun environment rather than conflict resolution

!    It offers credibility to new board members and revitalizes current board members as they    understand they are a part of the organization’s family.

!    It gives you a structure and system to foresee and better manage discontent before   escalation

Once you bring the team together (each with a designated role) working alongside you to implement the plan to jump-start fundraising, your byproduct is the group working together. As your Board and Staff watch the plan work, with funds flowing in not out, moral increases and bad feelings wane.


Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Sound familiar; eerie yet enticing? To professional grant writers these “offers” are a pernicious scam, it’s a wishing well, except rather than a penny or dime, your tossing in $19.99 or more, and you’re not getting $19.99 back, much less $1.9 million! This is not some harmless hoax. Seminar sellers and book hucksters routinely con people into shelling out hundreds of dollars to hear lectures or purchase directories that contain information readily available in any public library or on the Internet; in fact, I’ll be sharing some of those “freebie” websites with you here. Despite the grim picture I’ve painted, there are authentic government grants for businesses and individuals; the United States government does indeed award $400 billion annually through its 26 federal entities, what they don’t tell you is that they are very restrictive.  In fact, looking back at each federal grant I’ve written as a professional fundraising consultant,  I can tell you with some authority that there are in the area of 15 criteria you need to meet to even consider taking the time and spending the money to write one of these monsters (yes, monsters, imagine writing a Ph.D. dissertation).  Hey if winning grants were that easy, everyone would be rich. Right? Right. So, in order to make this monster of a process KISS — keep it simple stupid (recall that one from college marketing?), I’ll break it down for you. And then YOU count up the criteria you meet, or don’t meet, and from there make the decision to embark on the FREE GOVERNMENT GRANT! band wagon. The first question you need to ask yourself is: Who Are You? I ask because if you fit one or more of the following nine definitions you get to move on to the next six set of criteria.

1.   Female
2.   Minority
3.   Unemployed/Underemployed
4.   Disabled
5.   Recently released from prison
6.   High School Drop Out
7.   Veteran
8.   Recent Immigrant
9.    Sexual Orientation

    OK, you’ve identified who you are; now let’s look at what your business is.

    10.       Green

    11.       Community Revitalization: e.g. Under the Poverty Level, Rural Access, Urban Renewal, Business located in an economically challenged area

    12.       Job Creation

    13.       Economic development, workforce training

    14.       Service for working poor: e.g. child care centers, transportation, low income housing

    15. Innovation, social entrepreneurs, public/private partnerships

    Now, if you fit one or two of the above criteria, most likely, you’ve got a long shot at winning a grant; conversely, if you fit one or more of the 1 – 8 criteria AND one or more of the 10 – 15 criteria, you have a very good case for support for you and your business. Here’s a scenario of what it would look like to qualify for a federal grant:

    You are a female, unemployed veteran with a disability resulting from your years of service. While in the military you were trained as a chef, now home it’s been a dream of yours to start an organic farm in your rural hometown. Because of the people you served alongside you see the value of providing at risk urban youth with the opportunity to experience a rural lifestyle, so you intend to partner with an inner-city high school and have the youth work your small farm, harvest and sell your products at a local farmers market. This venture will require employees, so not only will you be offering at risk youth a positive work experience, you will hire full time and part time employees.  Due to your experience as an unemployed veteran, you have coordinated collaborations with the regional Workforce Development Office so they may help place people with the skills you need, you have also developed a partnership with the regional women’s prison. When a woman is released, and if she shows interest and has passed certain security measures, you will provide them with apprenticeships which could lead to part time or full time employment with you or with another similar operation, now that they have both experience and a work reference which you will provide.

    Last spring the USDA had a grant available which would be an excellent fit for a scenario just as described above.

    So what makes these 15 criteria so special that almost every grant requires meeting several of them? It’s pretty simple actually. Our government grants funds to organizations/businesses that will solve issues or problems facing the US, our economy, our citizens. They’ve identified at risk or hard to employ target populations and if you focus on training or hiring these populations, you are helping them solve a societal problem; making sure recently released prisoners have a fair shake and become productive members of society rather than struggling and perhaps ending up back where they came, which is an enormous cost to the government.

    If you’ve added up your criteria and you believe you may be eligible for a government grant, here are those “freebie” sites to search and see what is available right now.

    Federal Government Website www.Grants.gov

    Fundsnet Services http://www.fundsnetservices.com/searchresult.php?sbcat_id=30

    Philanthropy News Digest http://foundationcenter.org/pnd/

    Society for Nonprofit Organizations http://www.snpo.org

    Council on Foundations: Community Foundation Locator http://classic.cof.org/locator/index.cfm

    FAS Online http://www.fas.usda.gov/ICD/grants/director.html

    USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/funding.cfm

    GrantsAlert.com http://www.grantsalert.com/grants.cfm?id=4&pg=0

    Grant Wrangler http://www.grantwrangler.com/subscribe.html

    Environmental Grantmakers Association http://www.ega.org/funders/funderDirectory.php?keyword=&showAll=true

    Investor’s Circle https://angelsoft.net/angel-group/investors-circle/apply

    Funders Concerned about AIDS http://www.fcaaids.org/publications/Publications_Mapping.htm

    ScanGrants.com http://www.scangrants.com/

    For more information on federal grants give our federal grant writers at Wagner Fundraising a call. We’d love to help guide you through the process, or prepare the grant; whatever meets your needs.  More importantly, as professional fundraising consultants and grant writers we at ML Wagner Fundraising will tell you up front if it is a waste of time and money to seek government funding.