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I have been fundraising for  charitable organizations and political campaigns for almost 20 years. But no matter how my clients try to get around it, there is no fundraising tool more successful, than asking people for money, or direct solicitation, for my fellow fundraising professionals.  It cost virtually nothing and it has the largest return, in some cases as high as 80%. It is a fact!!

Unfortunately, it is also a fact that most people HATE asking others for money. And many will do ANYTHING to avoid the simple act of asking their friends and family for a check.  The irony is that most people are waiting to be asked. They want an opportunity to support a good cause and help out a friend.   If you are like most of my clients, you are pulling at your hair, wondering if I am going to share a “magic” way to make raising money easier.  Good news…that is exactly what I am going to do (well, not really magic, but good advice nonetheless)!!!   So with out any additional fanfare,  here are my “5 Tips  For Creating A Successful Fundraising Plan”.

  1. MATCH THE FUNDRAISING STRATEGY TO THE ORGANIZATION OR CAUSE. If you are part of an established organization, then this may be second nature to you. Although, if the organization has experienced multiple cycles of decline, it may be time to introduce some new ideas.  If you are just starting out, this decision is crucial.  The strategy employed must connect with the mission of the organization.  For example, many health related charities have “walks” because it combines health awareness with a healthy activity.  It would be ridiculous for the American Heart Association to have a “hot dog” eating contest. If you are searching for ideas, engage your supporters, board members and friends in a brainstorming exercise.  Since this group will likely be your major fundraisers, it is good to get them on board early.  Also, do some research on line  to bolster ideas.
  2. GET ORGANIZED. Choose a leader and have a plan,  a written plan.  Ultimately, someone has to play the role of the final decision maker to ensure that the fundraising strategy is executed according to plan and keeping with the organizational values. The plan should include a  goals, timeline, key responsibilities, communication/marketing and budget. I recommend HIGHLY that you utilize a customer relationship management software (CRM) or a donor management software.  This will feel cumbersome at first as some set up is required, but will be a lifesaver in the end.  There are several FREE  CRM web-based services, like ZOHO, FreeCRM or Highrise, or for small amount of records eTapestry or Salesforce can be used. If these seems too much to tackle, then try a simple excel spreadsheet to start.  This way when you get ready to upgrade to a CRM, the data can simply be imported.
  3. KNOW YOUR DONORS. This does not mean that you must have a “personal” relationship with each of your donors, but you should know stuff about them.  Follow tip # 2 and get organized.  If you don’t have one already, put together a list of donors and potential donors.  Start with your friends and family and the friends and family of your fundraising team (see tip # 4), and expand out from this point. For each name on the list, assign an estimate of how much they might give. This is why you need to know your list. The more you know, the more accurate your estimates will be.  Utilizing a CRM will help to organize all the pieces of information you should be gathering, from personal interests, donor history, connections and occupation, to name a few.   If you don’t know them personally, try Google.  The larger their donor history, the more likely it is you will find stuff about them on the internet. Knowing these details about your donors, will help you to understand what the ask them for, who should ask and when they should be asked.  Employing this tip, will help to increase the return on your list.
  4. EVERYONE IS A FUNDRAISER. As a former non-profit Executive, fostering this culture was crucial to the success of the organization. It meant having open dialogue with staff, supporters and board members about the fundraising plan.  Fundraising is a team effort.  It is never just one person’s job to raise money, everyone connected with the organization should understand that part of their role (even if it is a small part) is to raise money.  Everybody knows somebody who can write a check and they should be encouraged to ask those people to support the cause.  Make sure  everyone has a fundraising goal as part of the written plan; board members, staff, volunteers and supporters.   This goal should include a specific dollar amount and a strategy to accomplish the goal.  Obviously, the level of resources expended should be proportional to the donation expected.
  5. FOLLOW UP ON EVERY CONTACT.  Several years ago, my church launched a capital campaign to build a new sanctuary.  The theme for the campaign was “Not Equal Giving, But Equal Sacrifice”.  This communicated to every congregation member that no matter how big or small there contribution, it was an important part of meeting the fundraising goal.  Every donor is important.   This is a lesson that I now share with  my clients (and you)…respect all donors and offer multiple channels for giving.  People give differently based on all sort of reasons, so having lots of opportunities to give is crucial to maximizing your fundraising efforts.  As you learn more about your donors, you will be able to strategically target which channels are most appropriate for their giving and  those who might be able to increase their giving.

Bouns tip: SAY THANK YOU ALWAYS AND OFTEN. Like most of you, I learned early the importance of thank you.  While we always have the best intentions to appreciate the thoughtfulness of others, sometimes it does not get done.  As an midwestern girl, we are taught to be polite in every situation.  People who have donated before are most likely to donate again and to donate more, especially when they feel appreciated and worthwhile.   Make sure that all fundraising efforts involves thanking your donors, all your donors, always and often.

This process can feel overwhelming, so if you feel that additional help is needed.  Call a professional.  Holliday Advisors, LLC would be happy to help.


If you are reading this article, then likely that you have accepted the fact that you need to hire a consultant.  Now the big question, WHO?

The world of consulting can sometimes feel like a black hole.  The field is vast, covers every conceivable area and largely unstructured.  As a small business owner, you don’t have time (or inclination) to wade through this mountian of resources and infomation.  You need usable solutions now to problems you have today, not theories and conjecture about what “might” work or increase your revenue. Here are 5 questions to ask when engaging an consultant.

  1. Does the consultant have experience working with small business similar to yours either in size, industry or specific issue?
  2. Will the consultant provide realistic solutions that can be achieved in the budget and time allotted?
  3. Do you have a clear understanding of the deliverables to be provided by the consultant?
  4. Does the consultant communicate clearly and listen to your needs or concerns?
  5. Is the consultant providing services that will make your business, and by extension, your life easier?

If you can answer YES  to all of the above questions, then congratulation you have found the “right” consultant for your business.  If you answer no, to even one of these questions, then you should get more information or move on to the next potential consultant.

In Search of True Character

In the last few weeks, I have contemplated the aspect of character. What is it? Who has it? How do you know if it lies within you?

While there are many situations which reveal a persons charater, none as much as when faced with a obsticle. So, let’s consider some basic situations.

1. You are shopping with your teenage cousin. You have just left the store when you look in the bag and realize that there is some merchandise in the bag you did not pay for. What do you do?

a. Take it back to the store and apologize for the misunderstanding.
b. Put the merchandise back in the bag and go home chalking it up to lucky break.

2. You are accused of lying by your boss. Even though you were honest, your boss has some strong circumstantial evidence to prove his position. The president of the company has scheduled a time for you all both to come in to prove your posisiton. Your family suggest that you just forget it and move back home, as a new job in your field is opening up. What do you do?

a. Back your bags, take the new job and forget the incident ever happend.
b. Gather your evidence and present your position to your boss.

At the end of the day, I want to be the person who lives honestly and fights the fights that they faint of heart will not defend.

Strategy for Obama

Okay, so it is clear the Barack Obama is the rising star in the Democratic Party. The freshman Senator has made his rounds on the Democratic speaking circle this cycle and seems to be in more demand than prolific party leader Howard Dean. In fact, many DC insiders are discussing a presidential run for the young Chicago Senator. So, let’s ask the big question….

can he win?????<blockquote>

The fact is it is hard to say. A lot of it depends on the strengths of the Dems after the November 2006 elections. Here is what I hope…I want the Dems to come close the taking back the house but miss the mark by 2-3 seats. It is necessary for the Dems to demonstrate some gains, but they are not yet ready to move into leadership. This will keep donors at the table and Dems in power hungry for 2008.

Now let’s assume that we are not ready for Obama to be president (nor is he ready) but we like him and want to see him in leadership. So the Obama Strategy is clear, start an exploratory committee, raise some money and decide who would make the best president to his vice. HMMMM???

So let’s fast forward. Who should we support to bring home the White House and the Congress to the Democrats? The field is ever changing, but let’s just deal with the stand outs. We got Hillary Clinton, John Warner, John Edwards and a throwback, Al Gore.

Hillary? No, America is not that progressive. It would be great to break one barrier for race or gender but both is ambitious. Plus, two people with ties to Chicago, probably would not fly. So if Hillary gets the nod, Obama is in the backseat.

Edwards? The good news is that I like him a lot. I think he is great and would be good for America. The bad news is that I am almost by myself in this thinking. Also, he would be terrible for Obama, as their combined inexperience in governing would be a huge weakness.

Gore? Again, I love this man. I always have. I couldn’t be more thrilled at his ability to keep himself relevant in the political landscape. His work on Global Warming demonstates his ability to problem solve creatively and that he has heart. One problem, he is six years too late. Assuming he would subjected himself to the race again, he would not win.

So, that leaves us with the obvious choice…Warner. First, Warner is from the south. Not that he will carry the south but America likes Southern sensibilities. He is appropriately moderate and appeals to a swing constituency. Second, the Warner-Obama team could be unstoppable and have the right mix to cross the widest number of constituency, which will be needed to beat the McCain-?????? mix.

Why We Need a Change!!!!!

I like many other progressive minded Americans are yearning for the quintessential presidential candidate to emerge for the 2008 presidential election. We made not know who it is, but there are something we know about the candidate we want.

So, what do we know?

We know we want a candidate that has integrity. We are tired of being lied to and deceived.

We know we want a candidate that will improve the economy and expand opportunity. Baby boomers are raising a generation which is less prosperous, less educated and less prepared to take care of their parents.

We need jobs and we want them now. We need the kind of jobs that will allow us to pay our rent, buy groceries and support our children. Not just minimum wage service jobs,but jobs that allow us to maintain a growing middle class.

We know we want someone that will united the country, We are tired of fighting with our neighbor over extreme values that don’t allow us to improve public education or pay for our medication.

We know we want out of Iraq and for our soldiers to return home. We are tired of being lied to by our government and we are tired of being treated like of playing defense to terrorist but offense to our own citizens through ongoing discriminatory profiling and arbitrary airport security.

We need a change, we need a new president. Let’s get ready to make this happen in 2008. Let’s not make the same mistake we made in 2000 and 2004.

The US Senate today considered a measure which would raise the minimum raise. Only there is a catch, in order for 14.9 million Americans to get a raise, rich Americans would not have to pay taxes on their inheritence and America would plunge further into debt, then as if this wasn’t bad enough Republicans went to work trying to bribe the waivering dems with “pork” projects for their districts. Ironic, since Republicans are constantly trying to convince Americans that “pork” projects are bad and corrupt. Luckily, activists groups like ACORN and union memebers like SEIU and HERE, went to work in these languishing democrats’ districts.

And guess what…..most of them listened. Now, let’s look at the Dems that we need to take out….

Lincoln (D-AR)
Nelson (D-FL) – His state passed mim wage by 71% of popular vote
Nelson (D-NE)
Byrd (D – WV)

But, all is not lost because where we have villians, we also have heros. So, while this may be the only time I ever do this….hats off to the following Republicans for standing up to their party and defending the interest of the working poor.

Chafee (R-RI)
Vonivich (R-OH)

I hope you weren’t expecting a long list, just be glad we have a list.

Okay, this post is coming to an end and here is the lesson. America don’t be fooled, Republicans will try to spin this issue to their advanatage, but the truth is this vote was not about giving Americans a Raise, it was a cheap political ploy to neturalize the strength of this issue to bring out voters in November. They know if voters stay home, they win.

Make their worst dream come true…..VOTE.