KISS that Plan!

KEEPITSIMPLESTUPIDBy Nanette Fridman and Jennifer Weinstock

I had lunch last week with one of my favorite frontline fundraisers. This incredible professional has the passion, the personality and the organization prowess to be a stellar fundraiser. And yet, her frustration was palpable. She was exhausted, trying desperately to come up with new strategies and new ideas to re-invigorate her campaign. How could I help her overcome the challenges of another annual campaign?

I called up my friend and colleague Jennifer Weinstock to discuss this all-to-common phenomenon, and we came to a realization…

Stop making it so complicated!

Often in the search for the new idea, the new program, the new event, the new data platform, we over-complicate our plans and then find that we don’t have the stamina, staff, resources or lay leader support to execute.

So here are some of our “back to basics” methods to raise money this year:

1. Start with who you already have!

  • Prioritize renewing existing donors by December 31st. If you have annual donors who often give in the spring, try to get them on a September to December giving cycle. It’s much easier to renew existing gifts all at once and then focus on prospects in the spring.
  • Focus on increases. Ask a major donor to offer a match to all increased gifts. “Matches” are simple, motivating and reliable for donors.
  • Pick who may be ready for a multi-year ask.
  • Think about which asks should be integrated or part of a comprehensive ask such as an endowment gift or capital donation along with an annual campaign solicitation.

2. Organize your prospects

  • In the fall, focus on asking for first time gifts from prospects who have been on the radar and cultivated. Examples: a prospect who was introduced by a board member and has toured the program and volunteered or a prospect who attended your gala.
  • Set a reasonable goal for the second half of the year that you will cultivate 15 additional prospects and solicit 10 of them for annual gift. Use the December to June corridor to focus on this cultivation work for new donors to keep the pipeline full.

3. Creating opportunities for currently unknown prospects to make gifts

  • Adding new prospects who are not already on your radar but are primed to make a gift usually happens through existing board members and champions. Examples: a new board member reaches out to his contacts and invites them to a golf outing or a gala where they make a donation, an alum brings a friend to a “friendraising” event and the friend is so impressed she makes a gift, or you receive a gift from a person who responds to a champion’s request to make donations in honor their significant birthday. These are all unknown donors who came in due to their relationships with your insiders. Your job is to properly steward them so they hopefully become repeat donors.

Once you have these three categories of donors identified, the questions are:

For Numbers 1 and 2: Who are your top 25 names for each, and what are the moves you will use to cultivate or steward their gift this year?

For Number 3: What are events or opportunities that you can plan or suggest to your board or champions that may bring in new primed prospects?

For fundraising planning, it really pays to Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)!

Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is founder and principal of Fridman Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching for nonprofits. She is the author of On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service. Nanette can be reached at

Jennifer Weinstock is the Director of Development at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA and a Wexner Field Fellow. Jennifer can be reached at