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Most nonprofits have experienced a steady decline in how effective direct mail is for acquiring new donors. This drop began many years ago, and has accelerated because of online communications. Our panel discussion will explore effective alternative ways groups are acquiring new donors, using a variety of tools and techniques.

We will look at online tactics including email, social media and crowdfunding, and new twists on "old school" tactics like events and house parties, even canvassing, and board and volunteer networks, and how direct mail returns are strengthened when combined with other strategies. Our focus is on tactics that grassroots nonprofits can use, but any size organization can learn from the discussion. Topics covered:

  • What are best practices when it comes to working in partnership with tech companies?
  • What kinds of support do companies provide?
  • Why did my grant proposal get rejected?
  • What are some current trends in the way tech companies are approaching education-focused philanthropy?


  • Heather Buchheim, Senior Manager, National Engagement at Exhale
  • Sherri Franklin, Founder and Executive Director at Muttville
  • Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director at Jewish Voice for Peace

All three groups began with a few hundred dollars and have grown significantly in 14, 8 and 19 years respectively.


1. 8:25- Introductions

2. 16:40- What is your fundraising income and what portion of that is from individuals?

3. 21:56- Specific strategies and tactics you use to find new donors; share what you're learning about social media and online tactics.

- Try and try again! Try a variety of techniques, particularly in the lead up to major campaigns

- Be clear about your call to action and make it EASY; be flexible about types of donations and give people options that are a good fit for them

- Engage! What is our call to action? What are we motivating people to do? What's our story? Fundraising is becoming more and more dynamic in terms of interaction and imaging.

3. 38:18 How do you integrate social media and online tactics with your snail mail strategies?

- Plan it out!

- Show the impact

- Keep it positive

- Activate your networks! Share the excitement with personal networks too.

4. 50:00 How do you use accomplishments to engage new donors?

5. 57:15 How do you use events to leverage your fundraising?

- Engage every person who walks through the door

- Send them away with something

- Find something for them to do

- Offer people who can't come the opportunity to still donate

6. 1:08:00 How do you train and involve your board in fundraising?

7. 1:11:12 What are the online platforms that you can use to enable popups?

- Salsa


8. 1: 13:12 Where are you sourcing your ideas from?
- Network for Good
- Who are your comparators?
9. 1:14:50 When do you know it's time to go to an outside agency?
10. 1:15:53 For those of us who can't afford consultants, what are you going to do?
- Volunteers!
- Go talk to those people who are your heroes!
- Reach out to PR firms or companies who have pro bono commitments to your community

Intended audience

  • All levels of experience

Published Thursday, August 13, 2015