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Time Management

The Tool That Can Take Back Control of Your Fundraising Life

There’s something about our nonprofit profession that leaves a lot of us harried and overwhelmed, never able to catch up. I knew it was tough, but I learned it all over again when I asked our members and others about their biggest challenge in fundraising:

Time (well, lack of time) was the most common number-one challenge.

(Read about it here: The Biggest Challenge in Fundraising Revealed — It’s Not What I Thought)

Our extraordinary time-crush is not only stressful and frustrating — it’s keeping too many excellent people from being fully effective at their jobs.

They spend too much of their time in a perpetual tail-chasing struggle to keep up with the urgent, day-to-day stuff that fills their life. So much so, that they rarely do anything important — like think, dream, or learn. The cost of this — personally and to their organizations — is huge.

If you’re feeling the nonprofit time-crush, I have a tool that has been a major help to me in taking back control of my work life.

It’s a time management tool called the “Eisenhower Matrix,” developed by US President Dwight D. Before becoming President, he served as a general in the United States Army and as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II. He also later became NATO’s first supreme commander. Talk about time-crush!

The Eisenhower Matrix is built on an important principle: What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

It divides all your tasks into quadrants by their urgency and their importance. It looks like this:

  • Quadrant 1: Important and urgent. Emergencies and other non-negotiables that you must deal with now. This quadrant takes care of itself. The operational word for this quadrant: Do.
  • Quadrant 2: Important and not urgent. Things like planning, thinking, personal development, and other forward-looking activities. This is where the important stuff happens — where you achieve your greatness. It’s also the area you are most likely to neglect, because of the urgent things that call to you from the first and third quadrants. The operational word for this quadrant: Decide — you have to decide to do these things, to schedule them and defend your schedule to make them happen.
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent and not important. Emails, phone calls, fake emergencies. These are the things that are killing you. Their urgency crowds them onto your daily schedule. You have to learn to say no — or find a way to delegate them to others. The operational word for this quadrant: Delegate.
  • Quadrant 4: Not important and not urgent. These unnecessary and time-wasting things are easy to get rid of, but sadly, they find their way into our days all too often. By recognizing that they are not important, you can avoid them. The operational word for this quadrant: Delete.

List the tasks you are facing by quadrant. You can do this as a sort of general “time audit,” but it will have more impact if you do it regularly — once a week or even every day. Then strategize how you will spend your time.

Your most important task: spend as much time in quadrant #2 as you possibly can, and spend little or no time in quadrants #3 and #4. That’s the secret to success. In fundraising and in life.

Here are some additional ways to get the most from your Eisenhower Matrix:

  1. Limit yourself to eight or fewer tasks per quadrant. Avoid adding new tasks until you’ve completed previous tasks.
  2. Have one list for both your professional and private tasks. You are one person, not two!
  3. Stand up for your quadrant #2 priorities. You are the only one you can depend on to do this.
  4. Procrastination is your enemy. It’s what pushes you into the low-importance categories. Watch yourself for signs of procrastination.

One of the best ways to maximize your Quadrant #2 time is to learn more about fundraising. One of the best ways to do that? Join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic — the home for smart fundraisers like you who want to do the very best work. Our community of members is at your fingertips to help you focus on the things that will have the biggest impact on your fundraising.

Related posts:

Where Good Fundraising Ideas Are Born

What Are Fundraisers’ Most Pressing Problems?

CFRE Points:
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The Biggest Challenge in Fundraising Revealed – It’s Not What I Thought

I recently asked our members and other friends a question: What is your biggest fundraising challenge?

I asked this not just because the team and I are curious (and we are!) but because it will help us create material (blogs, tip sheets, webinars etc) that really address the need of our community, and help you succeed.

And wow, did I get answers! Thanks to the excellent people who took the time to share their challenges with me. I discovered that the top challenge was this:

I don’t have enough time to do all my work!

A close second was Problems with my boss and/or board. Not surprising, as we hear about this from our members constantly. You might be saying that “not enough time” is really a problem with your boss or board — because it happens when an organization is not properly staffed or deployed. Fair enough, and you’ll see below how connected these two issues sometimes are.

A distant third: donor acquisition.

Check out what some of the participants had to say about their time:

We work 15-hour days, which leaves little time for fundraising, even though we depend upon donations to enable us to work the 15 hours required. We are too tired to think outside the box, sadly.

I’m a Director of Development for a small org and there’s not enough time, or enough knowledge within my small team to get into the data. Also, it’s overwhelming dealing with the details, which takes time away from fundraising.

My biggest fundraising challenge is having too many job responsibilities to really excel in any given area.

Sound familiar?

If you are struggling with time, it can seem like the last thing you should do is add something to your plate — like reading this blog. But the truth is, gaining more knowledge and being more connected to the wider fundraising community will save time

When you do this, you’ll discover more effective and efficient ways of doing things. You’ll gain confidence about what you’re doing, which will mean less time spent second-guessing yourself or defending your decisions. And you’ll learn which things you don’t need to be spending time doing.

The even tougher barrier is often the bosses and boards. Here are some of the comments about them:

I could raise more money if my boss would get out of my way and encourage rather than discourage me. I have tried to educate her, but she still micromanages and acts like a bottleneck.

My boss is a seat-of-the-pants guy, following his gut rather than the data.

One common way people struggle with their leaders is Shiny Object Syndrome — the fascination with new things, often to the exclusion of keeping up with the basics:

Our CEO tends to focus on the “shiny, new object” at the expense of tried and true methods. Seems like most of the time leadership prefers to make decisions on their gut instincts, which in many cases is incorrect.

Who shared their biggest fundraising challenge with us? More than 9 out of 10 are people professionally involved in fundraising:

  • 62% work full time in fundraising
  • 23% fundraising is among other duties
  • 8% consultants or supplier to nonprofits
  • 6% volunteers and others

If you are struggling with your time and/or your bosses, I hope reading what other people like you are facing is encouraging — you are not alone. And there are solutions to your challenges! And in the coming months, we will be creating new materials specifically to help you survive and thrive.

The most important thing to remember: Start small. Fix one small problem at a time. Remember the old saying — The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

 Our Moceanic courses (available only to Fundraisingology Lab members and Coaching+ clients) can help you save time and win over your boss! They’ll equip you with known and tested fundraising truths from long-time experts. Click here to find out about joining The Fundraisingology Lab.

Related posts:

Help! My Board Won’t Listen To Me!

Your Seven-Point Guide to Ensuring Respect for Fundraising

VIDEO: Blithering Nonprofit Executives Discuss Making Direct Mail Great Again

VIDEO: Blithering Nonprofit Executives Decide: Golf, Not Bequests

CFRE Points:
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Don’t Let “Excellence” Intimidate You! You Can Be Excellent!

At one of our Moceanic Office Hours sessions (held for members of The Fundraisingology Lab), I was talking about the disturbing trends in fundraising: Dropping response rates, rising costs, shrinking retention. Then I noted that these are industry-wide numbers; many organizations are doing better than the industry trends, and in fact are moving in the opposite direction — growing, not shrinking.

The difference? Dumb luck? Sometimes that’s it.

But more often, the organizations that are beating the trends are doing excellent fundraising. When you do great work, you won’t be a prisoner of the dismal trends.

Then one of the webinar attendees chimed in with something that stopped me cold: Excellence is so intimidating!

It stopped me because I knew exactly what she meant.

Fundraising is difficult. Complicated. Your boss might interfere with it. Not only that, but fundraising is changing. Quickly. It’s no small task to get your fundraising projects out the door, much less do them with excellence.

So when some dude in a webinar says All you have to do is be excellent, you just might be tempted to say Get real!

It’s a lot easier to talk about excellence than it is to do it.

The inescapable truth is that when you’re new at anything, you’re not very good at it. And anyone, no matter how experienced, can (and does) make mistakes.

Excellence, schmexcellence!

The truth is, excellence can be your secret weapon. But it’s not just a switch you can turn on.

Excellence is a process:

  • You learn as much as you can — through books, blogs, conferences, classes, webinars, and (best of all) mentors.
  • You keep donors in the front of your mind always.
  • You learn to be skeptical of your own and others’ preferences.
  • You do your best to apply what you discover.
  • Most of all, you learn from your mistakes. (If you aren’t making mistakes you are probably not approaching excellence!)

Do those things and you will be excellent. Maybe only a little bit excellent at first, but you’ll keep getting better all the time, as long as you keep on trying. Every small improvement helps — and is the foundation for all the steps that follow.

It’s not easy, but anyone can do it.

So if you’re feeling you are not excellent, not up to the standard, do this: Take a step, even a tiny step, in the direction of excellence. That’s the only way to get there. And that’s how you beat the trends.

Want the best support for your journey to excellence? Join The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out here.

Related posts:

CFRE Points:
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Direct Mail

Use Postage to Maximize Impact in Direct Mail Fundraising

It’s easy to get so caught up in the creativity of a direct mail pack that you forget one of the most fundamental facts about it:

It’s a piece of mail that goes through the postal system.

And that means you have choices about the type of postage you use — both outbound and inbound.

In the US, we have two postage rates with a whole lot of ways to deliver each:

  1. Nonprofit rate, which we can send with a stamp, printed indicia, or metered postage
  2. First class, which can also be sent different ways.


The cost for both rates varies, depending on how much you cooperate with the postal service’s automation standards.

Here’s a surprise: Recent testing has shown that the rate and type of postage you use to send direct mail has little impact on response.

That means when you’re choosing postage, you are deciding on two factors:

  • Cost. Nonprofit rate starts as low as 10¢; a stamped letter is 49¢.
  • Timing. First class mail usually gets delivered more quickly than nonprofit rate mail.

In real life, this means you can use nonprofit rate postage any time, even with higher-end donors.  Unless you want them to get the mail sooner.  Also, we know that variety is good for any donor’s direct mail diet, so using first class postage for your upper donors is probably worth doing.

Another of those you-can-go-either-way postage decisions is what kind of return envelope you use:

  • Business Reply Envelope (BRE). The donor can send it back without postage; the postal service bills you for a first-class letter plus a little more.
  • Courtesy Reply Envelope (CRE). The donor has to add a stamp to mail it.

(I’m describing how it works in the US; most countries have something similar.)

It used to be that BREs won nearly every test.  Not anymore, at least in my experience. Now, BREs and CREs perform about the same.  Here’s the odd thing about testing this:  If you always use one type of return envelope, and then you test the other type against your usual, the test does better.  That is, variety and change are good for a response!

So far, I’ve been telling you that your postage decisions don’t make much of a difference for direct mail results.  But there’s one approach I know that makes a big difference: Adding real first-class stamps to the return envelope.

By putting first-class stamps on the return envelope, you will increase response to your direct mail. Better yet, put several stamps of different denominations, adding up to first-class postage. Like this:

This is an expensive thing to do, adding 49¢ to the cost of the direct mail pack.  For upper-end donors, it’s a no-brainer.  The increased response, coupled with the high gifts they give makes the cost an easy decision.  But for the rest of your donors, that cost outweighs the improvement in response.

In my experience, the dividing line between donors it’s worth spending the extra stamps on and those for whom it’s not worth the cost is at $100.  It pencils out for donors who give $100 or more in a year, but not for those who give less.

If your experience with postage is different from mine, I’d love to hear about it! If you are in a country with very different postal regulations or conditions that cause you to do things differently, let me know.

How to use postage to maximum impact in direct mail fundraising is just one of the things we’ll look at in my upcoming course, 7 Steps To Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail.  Click here to sign up for The Fundraisingology Lab and get instant access!

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Like Dislike Hand Agree Disagree with Experts e1517725877497
Direct Mail

What to Do When the Fundraising Experts Are Wrong

Every once in a while, I hear from a fundraiser who says something like this:

Our direct mail is not at all the way you say it should be. It’s wordy, complicated, and written at a very high reading level. We bury the ask, we never underline anything, and there’s no P.S. But we’re doing fine. In fact, our response rates are above 10% and average gifts keep going up. Do you experts even know what you’re talking about?

The experts do know what they’re talking about.  But they don’t know your file.

All donor files are different. Some are just plain weird.

It’s especially possible if you’re a smaller organization. You might be flying in the face of everything the experts say, yet doing well anyway. What’s the deal? It’s probably one of these things:

  1. You have a great group of donors who believe in your cause and give a lot, in spite of your fundraising. If you’d follow best practices, you’d do even better than you are now.
  2. You have an unusual, even eccentric, group of donors — and you’ve found an effective way to motivate them that’s different from most fundraising. If you followed best practices, you might not do as well as you do now.
  3. Your donors care about your cause, not the way you communicate. It doesn’t really matter whether you follow best practices or not. They’re going to keep supporting you at about the same level.

If #1 one is the truth, you should start doing things right. If it’s #2, you shouldn’t change anything. If it’s #3, you have some flexibility.

The trick is to figure out what’s true about your donors and their connection with you. (Spoiler: It turns out to be #1 most of the time!)

Here’s how you can find out: Test a lot. If the size of your file is too small for valid testing (that is, you mail less than around 10,000 at a time), then cautiously introduce best practice techniques (just one at a time!) and see what happens.

One test (or try) won’t tell you the whole truth, but you’ll start to see if best practices are best for your donors.

Don’t draw quick conclusions — after all, if you’re doing okay, there’s no huge urgency to change.

Try a lot of different best-practice techniques. A pattern will eventually emerge, and you’ll know the right way to connect with your donors.

If you’re a growing organization, note that the larger you get, the more “normal” your file will be — that is, the more likely the best-practice techniques will work.

Think of the advice of the experts as what’s most likely to work for most organizations, most of the time. It’s possible we’re wrong about your donors. But before you write us off, make sure you know for sure!

Find out some of the amazing best practices of direct mail fundraising by taking my 7 Steps To Creating Record-Smashing Direct Mail online course that is available to all members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
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Four Ways Nonprofit Bosses Kill Fundraising – and How You Can Fight Back (but Keep Your Job)

One of the more startling things we’ve learned here at Moceanic is how big a problem nonprofit CEOs are for fundraising. Far too many people in the fundraising profession have a significant uphill battle to fight on every project they do: The boss screws it up!

It’s an unfortunate reality, and we’re not going to fix it just by complaining about it.

But maybe we can make things better by understanding the boss’s goals, intent, and approach. So we can meet them on more fruitful ground.

Here are four common nonprofit leadership styles that are distinctly harmful to fundraising — and how you can fight back (without losing your job):

Destructive Boss Type #1: The Technocrat 

This leader is an expert in the organization’s mission, adept at rallying resources to get the best outcomes for the organization.

Almost always, though, the Technocrat is less interested in fundraising. Under her regime, fundraising tends to be a neglected stepchild in the organization, a languishing afterthought. Fundraisers tend to be underpaid, poorly supported, and seldom challenged to rise to greater heights.

What you can do about a Technocrat: The truth is, a little benign neglect isn’t the worst thing that you can get from a nonprofit boss! But in the long run, neglect will hurt.

With a Technocrat, logic usually works.  You can explain what you’re doing, and why it makes sense. Your Technocrat has a good chance of understanding the data-driven world of direct-response fundraising, so approach issues from that point of view.

Destructive Boss Type #2: The Poet

This self-expressive leader really believes in his ability to communicate; every word from his mouth is perfect — unchangeable, like some kind of scripture. The clarity, simplicity, and donor focus that fundraising requires often doesn’t sit well with the Poet, who blithely believes his genius and unique voice will create a superior form of fundraising. It rarely does.

What you can do about a Poet:  This one is a challenge. Logic doesn’t work because it’s not the issue for the Poet.  In my experience, you can only attempt to persuade the Poet that fundraising is not poetry. It is no more poetry than your mortgage application.  (You and I know different, but we’ll keep that to ourselves, okay?)

The Poet needs outlets. Hope that he keeps getting book contracts that will keep him out of your fundraising hair.

Destructive Boss Type #3: The Consensus Builder

Not really a leader, the Consensus Builder becomes captive to the majority opinion and/or those who yell the loudest or persistently. Since that’s not usually the people who know or understand fundraising, your fundraising tends to degrade over time, and generally gets eviscerated by committees. People who are terribly harmful to fundraising (and anything else) seldom are disciplined or let go.  Problems tend to fester, hidden by a thick layer of fake smiles.

What you can do about a Consensus Builder:  The best way to get your Consensus Builder to care about fundraising is to persuade him that donors are people too! Once he feels the need to include donors in his thinking, you at least have a chance of doing things right now and then by being the spokesperson for donors. Which is basically what professional fundraisers are anyway!

Destructive Boss Type #4: The Entrepreneur

Usually, the organization’s founder, the Entrepreneur is a passionate exponent of the organization’s mission. Highly opinionated, she is often obsessed with explaining the organization’s processes and inner workings. This can make fundraising difficult, as it leads to fundraising that’s all about explaining to and educating donors under the false assumption that if they just understood the work, they’d be forced by the dictates of logic to donate! This, as you know, is a dramatically incorrect assumption about donor motivation.

Sometimes the Entrepreneur works in favor of fundraising if she happens to have fundraising as part of her vision — after all, the organization grew out of the Entrepreneur’s vision, and the money came from somewhere! In this case, you have the enviable job of educating someone who’s eager to be educated about fundraising.

More often, though, you’ll struggle somewhere between being forced to create “explainer” fundraising and neglected, underfunded fundraising.

What you can do about an Entrepreneur: Logic can work with her! Explain what you want to do and why. Show her what the experts say.  Test things. The Entrepreneur, after all, wants nothing more than for her vision to succeed!

The Main Solution In Every Case

Know your stuff! If you are just making stuff up and creating fundraising based on your own preferences, you are no better and driving great fundraising than a troublesome boss! Read the excellent books on fundraising. Follow a few blogs.  Take courses (like those we offer inside The Fundraisingology Lab!)

Should you Give Up?

Ultimately, you may find a destructive boss to be incorrigible.  If that is truly the cause it is probably time for you to find another job. This can be difficult for fundraisers who believe in their causes.  But life is too short — and there are too many other important causes — to waste it with a boss who won’t let you do your job.

Please share your experience with difficult bosses — successful or not — by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

CFRE Points:
Survey Course
Bequests and LegaciesDirect MailDonor LoveMajor and Mid Value DonorsMonthly Giving

This Survey Type Is Better Than Almost Anything Else You Can Do in Fundraising

One of the first things I learned about when I joined Moceanic a few months ago was an amazing fundraising technique we called the Supporter Connection Survey.

I was blown away…

But now I’m even more blown away because I’ve seen it at work first hand.

Listen: If the Ice Bucket Challenge and the LiveStrong Bracelet got together and had a child, that child would be lame and ineffective compared to the Supporter Connection Survey!

When I learned about the Supporter Connection Survey, I blogged about it.

I want to quote extensively from that post, and then tell you how I missed the mark at that time. I simply wasn’t amazed enough!

Here’s that post:

I’ve just learned about an exciting new direct mail fundraising technique. Yes, I’m using the word “new” in the same sentence with “direct mail.” I know we all tend to think everything about direct mail is older than dirt. But this is new.

And it just might blow your mind the way it did mine.

It’s called a Supporter Connection Survey. It’s a direct mail pack that features a survey.

You might be saying right now, “Surveys are not new in fundraising, you idiot!” That’s more or less what I said at first. But a Supporter Connection Survey is different. It’s so different, it’s not really a survey at all — even though it looks and acts exactly like one.

Sean and Paul, the co-founders of at Pareto Fundraising used similar surveys in the UK in the 90s, and Pareto developed them further with charities in Australia from 2003. This type of survey is now common in Australia and New Zealand and used in some form by the majority of successful fundraising charities there.

In short, a Supporter Connection Survey is meant to discover what individual donors think and say about your cause… so you can talk back to them about the things they care about. It’s not unlike an actual conversation!

It also helps you find solid legacy giving leads and other forms of valuable connection with donors. (And this — revenue-wise — is even more important.)

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you’re an organization called the Australian Animals Alliance. One of the questions in your Supporter Connection Survey might be this:

Which of these projects interests you most (check one)?

  • Saving wombats from spreading urbanization.
  • Providing rescue homes for orphaned echidnas.
  • Rescuing emus that have wandered into cities.
  • Providing medical care for sick platypuses.

Then the money question: Can you tell me why that is important to you? And leave a blank space for them to write an answer.

These are all things the Australian Animals Alliance does. Now here’s the cool part: You’re going to put your donors’ answers into your database. And later on, in direct mail, you’re going to have a paragraph like the following:

I believe you’ll be thrilled to support our Kookaburra Habitat Campaign this year, because, as you told us in the survey you filled out, you believe in saving wombats from spreading urbanization.

And for some of your higher value donors, you literally repeat back to them what they wrote to your question about why it’s important. Like this:

I believe you’ll be thrilled to support our Kookaburra Habitat Campaign this year, because, as you told us in the survey, “I really care about wombats because my father was a wombat conservation activist.”

And that’s fundraising magic. Telling donors you know what they care about is a powerful thing. It meaningfully improves future results.

But that’s not all. You’ll uncover some highly valuable donors by asking:

  • A question about bequests.
  • A question about being a high-level donor.
  • A question about being a monthly donor.

This uncovers an almost unbelievable amount of valuable information about donors who are ready to do more! You still have to connect with them and cultivate them, but that first step of finding them is the beauty of it.

A Supporter Connection Survey looks almost exactly like other kinds of surveys, so let me show you what it is not:

It’s not a research survey

You are not going to get useful, statistically valid findings about your donor file with a Supporter Connection Survey! In fact, you will almost surely lead yourself astray if you try to use it to get valid research. (Real research is hard. If you need to do some research, get professional help if you want to do it right!)

It’s not a fundraising “push” survey

That’s the type of survey more widely used in fundraising. This type of survey is also not for research. In fact, you don’t get any usable information from a push survey.

If you were the Australian Animals Alliance and you did a push survey, your questions would be like this: Do you support conserving the unique wildlife of Australia? (Yes or no.) The goal of a push survey is to build a sort of momentum of YES, so saying “yes” to making a donation is easy and natural.

Push surveys work quite well in many areas of fundraising, especially those that have an advocacy flavor, like the environment and civil liberties. They are a mainstay of political fundraising.

But they’re not at all like Supporter Connection Surveys.

Supporter Connection Surveys are all about creating two-way communication between organizations and donors. Done right, they are virtual magic.

Okay, that’s what I said a couple of months ago. Since then, I’ve walked alongside an organization as they created and launched a Supporter Connection Survey. They got more donor interest, more bequest leads, and more major donor leads than our most optimistic projections. A lot more! So many more that they are looking at a future with many times the revenue they get today.

This single survey (and you can bet they’ll be doing it again) will transform the life of the organization. They’ll be able to do more of their good work than they’ve dreamed possible — until now. And they’re dreaming!

Thus the reason I’m telling you this.

Interested in learning more about this amazing tool?

Check out our online course about supporter connection surveys. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab and will show you how to raise more funds for your cause from every channel!

Jeff Brooks

CFRE Points:
Sean Cartooned
FundraisingDonor Love

The Most Powerful Communication Tool: The Supporter Connection Survey

A proven method for increasing revenue, uncovering legacy donors and improving donor-centricity.

With data-led fundraising guru Sean Triner

Do you have lots of lovely donors supporting your work?  Do you have a direct mail program?  Or an online fundraising program?

Well, if you haven’t got a ‘Supporter Connection Survey’ in your communications plan your cause is missing out.

Potentially, missing out on millions.

This kind of survey is absolutely fundamental to knowing your donors.  And knowing them is fundamental to ANY planned giving, bequest, mid or major donor campaign.

I’ve seen time and time again the power of the Supporter Connection Survey. It is the single biggest way you can uncover legacy leads, increase mid and major donor income, advance your appeal performance, and improve your donor care and stewardship. Quite simply, Supporter Connection Surveys are amazing.

As our Fundraisingologist Jeff Brooks says:

“I don’t lightly use the word “magic” to describe even the strongest tactics. But this type of survey’s simple power is, well, magical. It can power your organisation’s fundraising growth for years to come and transform the way you communicate with your donors.”

Introducing the Supporter Connection Survey

My name is Sean Triner, and I co-founded Moceanic with a big idea to connect smart fundraisers like you with the best fundraising experts in the world.  It is no accident that for charities I think that the Supporter Connection Survey is the place to start.

Roger Craver describes me as a true data-led fundraiser. That means I take a data-driven approach whenever I help fundraisers. Don’t let that scare you off, though. Most people I work with find my approach refreshing and authentic.

And like the rest of the Moceanic Team, I also understand that great fundraising comes from the heart. Maybe that’s why I value supporter connection surveys so much – truly donor focused fundraising combined with using the important data we collect in the survey. I’m pretty sure you’ll love these surveys as much as I do…

First off, I should explain what I mean by a ‘Supporter Connection Survey’.

I’m not talking about the appeal disguised as a survey: You may have seen these before.  These ‘fake’ surveys ask the donor a series of leading questions to get the donor repeating ‘yes’ until they are asked ‘Will you please donate $50 to help right now?’  I’ve seen these surveys work really well for charities.

But the Supporter Connection Survey is NOT a fake survey designed to elicit a donation.

Nor am I talking about Quantitative research: Those surveys ask questions that will be analysed. For example, ‘75% of our supporters think…’

They don’t contain leading questions, are not ‘warm’ in how they communicate.  They don’t cheat by having questions strategically placed to give a little nudge on the next answer.  And the objective of those surveys is to find out about donors as a ‘group’.

But the Supporter Connection Survey is NOT quantitative research.

I’m talking about the REAL Supporter Connection Survey – this survey is all about the donor.

It is about that individual who received the survey and completed it.

  • This survey helps the charity and its staff to be extremely donor-centric.  In fact, I can’t imagine how it is possible to be truly donor-centric if you don’t know what each donor wants!
  • This survey helps the fundraisers and senior managers to truly know their donors.
  • This survey allows for superbly tailored communications that increase loyalty and response.
  • This survey identifies potential major donors.  A completed survey can even be used as a prop and case for support on your next visit or conversation with your key supporter!
  • This survey identifies potential bequestors (legators).

Charities in Australia have had huge success with these surveys, and most see it as an essential and significant part of any planned giving or bequest (legacy) program.

Nearly all donors in Australia, who have told charities they put the charity in their Will, did so because of this type of survey. Well over half of all legacy leads are identified by these surveys. That’s a huge volume of potential income that an organisation may otherwise be missing out on.

How to get your own Supporter Connection Survey

Moceanic doesn’t do things for you.  We teach you how to do them, and how to do them right.

There is a right way to do this type of survey – and many, many wrong ways…

But that’s what we’re here to help guide you through!

We’ve done the research.  We’ve looked at test results. We’ve analysed the results.  We’ve applied the learnings. We know the best approach to take, and we will share it all with you.  We’ll hold nothing back.

But we won’t just tell you how to do it, and we won’t do it for you. We’ll do it with you.

Our courses are designed to help charity people who want to build their internal knowledge and capacity, grow their staff, and achieve more. We’ll help you rise to a new level of expertise so you can eliminate the guess work and get straight to producing the best survey and strategy for your organisation.

Throughout the course, we will provide you with great examples, worksheets, checklists and cheat sheets galore – so whether you’re developing it yourself or briefing externally, you will have all the tools you need to get your Supporter Connection Survey out the door.

How Your Supporter Connection Survey Will Happen

I have been ‘doing’ Supporter Connection Surveys for decades.  As a direct marketing fundraiser in the UK in the ‘90s they were always part of my program.

When I was the boss, they made all my teams’ jobs easier – whether they were in direct mail, events, planned giving, major donors or monthly giving.

From 2003 Pareto Fundraising, a company I co-founded, has been working with charities to produce hundreds and hundreds of surveys.  So much so that they are seen as essential for any Australian or New Zealand fundraiser serious about bequests, major donors or boosting direct mail and digital results.

I worked hard to get these surveys right.  And I am still working hard to make them better and better.

In six to ten weeks from now (I mean the course launch date), your cause could have an absolute wealth of information on key donors that will boost income.  This is how it will work.

What Topics Does the Course Cover?
This course covers four main topics – each of these is a “module”.

Module 1. Planning for Your Supporter Connection Survey

The right planning and preparation is the crucial first step.

In this module, I’ll take you through everything you’ll need to consider and plan for before you start on the development of your survey.

  • You’ll uncover what the purpose of the survey is and how it fits with your fundraising goals
  • You’ll understand the best approach for targeting and timing so you can select who you’ll mail, and when
  • I’ll take you through the pros and con’s for asking for a donation with the survey – and you can decide which approach you prefer
  • You’ll be able to work out how much budget you’ll require and how much resource you’ll need to complete the project.
Module 2. The Questions

The most important part of the survey – what are we going to ask?!

This module will provide you with the do’s and don’ts of survey questions so you can get started on writing your own.

  • You’ll find out what the four types of questions are – and the best way to write them.
  • You’ll find out what four questions NOT to ask!
  • You’ll discover the four questions to ask YOURSELF. Every time you write a question, you need to answer these special questions first!
  • You’ll master the fundraising questions – the heart of the survey! These include the bequest/legacy question, understanding the individual donor’s commitment, and much more.
  • You’ll also discover what the key elements of a good cover letter/email are.

Following this module, you’ll have all the tools and information to put together your survey questions and even write your cover letter. You’ll have checklists, worksheets, and more videos to help you.

Module 3. Getting the survey out of the door

Now your questions are written, it’s time to get your survey into production and out the door! In this module I’ll give you all the tools you’ll need.

  • You’ll find out how to use design to make your survey look good! Whether out-sourced or in-house, I’ll give you the tools to brief the designer.
  • You’ll discover the basic rules of testing, what to bother with, and how to avoid time-wasting.
  • You’ll learn how to schedule and keep everything moving, as well as be provided with useful checklists for production so nothing slips through the cracks.
Module 4. Making it all count. Handling responses and communicating with your supporters

Now your survey is well into production, it’s time to plan what to do with the responses.

In this last module, I’ll take you through the donor journeys you need to consider and which ones to prioritise.

  • You’ll uncover the different ways to feedback to your donors – how, when and to whom.
  • You’ll get great advice on how to manage complaints and questions from donors.
  • You’ll find out how to use survey responses to plan your donor-centric super-charged communications.
  • You’ll know what to plan for next year to ensure you have the budget to do the survey again!

The skills and strategies you’ll learn throughout this course have helped charities raise millions of dollars to fund great causes. They’ll work for you too!

7 More Things You’ll Learn in this Course 

  • Why Francis Bacon was right in 1597 when he wrote “Ipsa scientia potestas est”
  • How these surveys can be used as a prop when visiting major donors
  • What never, ever, to ask in a survey
  • How to position questions to maximise response
  • When to ask for donations in surveys like this
  • What the Latin “Ipsa scientia potestas est” means in English!
  • Just HOW much potential GOOD your donors are willing to do!

Course Details: Here Is What You Will Get

(and there’s a lot more we’re working on, too)

Here is what your course will include:

  • Full access to The Supporter Connection Survey Course (4 modules)
  • Access to a replay of the introductory webinar
  • Four modules, including Q&A
  • A bonus video all about these surveys
  • Roger Craver on Donor commitment – a great video!
  • Jeff and Sean discussing asking for money in surveys to help you decide
  • Slide presentation downloads
  • Access to all these things for 12 months through Moceanic’s easy-to-use online course website
  • Bonuses – the Moceanic team and I promise there will be even more, including video interviews with special guests and video answers to FAQs from other students

How will you watch it? Immediately after purchasing, you’ll be sent a private link where you can jump in and start the course immediately. You’ll get an introductory video to start with, and then each week you’ll get access to the live session (recorded for you to view anytime after the live session you want if you can’t attend the live sessions). You could literally be watching the first introductory session 5 minutes from now (I mean 5 mins after the course is actually launched!)

How Much Do You Need to Invest?

The entire Supporter Connection Survey course is broken into four modules to ensure that you fully absorb it all and become one of the fundraisers who get used to succeeding.

You can get access to the full course, all the bonuses, plus all of our other courses when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.


There’s nothing to lose with our 30-day money back. NO questions asked*.

If this course doesn’t help you, just ask for your money back (*actually, we will ask a few questions to work out what we can do better! Moceanic aims to help smart fundraisers get even smarter, so we want to know how we can improve our courses all the time!)

Is this course really worth it?

Here’s what others have to say about Sean’s webinars and online courses:

“Sean was well versed, interesting, and exciting!” Julia, Preservation Pennsylvania 

 “Great, usable content.  Goes right to the heart of the issue” Ted, AmeriCares

 “Insightful information presented in a simple and easily adaptable format to immediately have an impact on our organization. Time well spent!” Mary, New Reach

 “Sean gives you the ABC’s of effective fundraising. Excellent and informative.” Vivienne, American Foundation for the Blind

 “Sean has a clarity of thought and depth of knowledge that is invaluable… but his real skill is that he keeps it simple and cuts through all the fluff and fakery!” Sarah, Cancer Society, New Zealand

We’ll also provide you with examples of great survey’s, cover letter examples, simple targeting budgeting and planning tools, and a whole range of briefing forms and checklists to help you get your survey out the door!

Questions you might have… 

Is this course for beginners or experienced fundraisers?

It’s great for fundraisers of any level provided they have a desire to know their donors better and produce a Supporter Connection Survey soon. You’ll learn something new no matter where you are in your career.

I’ve read lots of your blogs and articles, Sean. They’re great and I’ve learned a lot and even put a lot into practice. Why should I do the course?

Thanks for reading my material! You might see some familiar material in this course if you’ve read my stuff.  But this course is carefully structured to take you on a journey that takes you beyond just additional information.  At the end of the course you will have produced a Supporter Connection Survey!  Not only that, but the course is interactive, so you can zoom in on how these things apply specifically to your challenges.

I already work with a vendor, supplier or agency. How will this course help me?

That works brilliantly and the course has got all your bases covered. We thoroughly recommend in most of our courses that third party experts are engaged to implement much of the work.

Our goal is to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the who, what, when where and why for any project.

One of the biggest barriers for all fundraisers is time. Using great suppliers increases your time. Often doing things in house hides costs and may actually be less effective. So this course is for you if you’re doing it in house yourself, briefing a supplier or working with a full-service vendor or agency.

We even have specific bonus resources that you can use to brief your external team!

How much time will this take?

Great question! The course itself is being designed to go through in under 2 hours per week.

You’ll also need to set some time aside each week to do some project work after each module to ensure your survey development stays on track.

Four weeks should be about right to go through everything, but you’ll need at least six weeks, more likely eight weeks between starting and getting your survey out.  Within four weeks from that you will have most of your responses and can get on with using the information to make the world a better place!

How often SHOULD I work on it?

See above. We recommend each week you try to join the live video webinar. If you can’t make it then schedule some time in your diary to watch the recording the next day!   

Get access to the FULL course when you join The Fundraisingology Lab.

CFRE Points:
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Fundraising Training Needs

What Are Fundraisers’ Most Pressing Problems?

Are These Seven Fundraising Woes Yours Too?

When Jeff arrived at Moceanic he offered two free ninety-minute Coaching+ sessions for the two ‘best’ 100-word description of the challenges faced by responders.

We were quite literally inundated with entries from hundreds of fundraisers like you in need of help.

Responses came in from all over the world, from all sorts of charities.

With so many responses (and because I made a mistake with our automated thank you), we extended to four sessions.

I thought it would be useful to you to share some of the recurring themes.  I’d love your feedback on them! Do they resonate with you?

Seven themes that really stuck out for me were…

Getting the board or senior management team on board with fundraising.
The number one problem – over 1 in 7 had ‘board’ in their biggest challenge.  You may have already read Jeff’s blog about this issue here.

The fundraiser for a successful charity in Minnesota said:
“… Goals that are set unrealistically and based on the organization’s needs, not on the reality of the donor base.” (I kept the ‘z’ in there because she is American, and they spell stuff different to the rest of us).

And a frustrated fundraiser in Australia vented:
Managing the ridiculous expectations of a board to increase revenue, while they …  oppose premiums, list swaps, telemarketing etc… So I guess educating the organisation is my biggest problem.”

Building a culture of fundraising in the organisation.

Strongly related to the board issues were problems with peers and bosses beyond the board.

A fundraiser in Ireland, working for a successful medium-sized fundraising charity, said:

“…The bit that comes less easily is the politics required to maintain the critical underlying conditions where good fundraising can flourish – i.e. (in my opinion) a culture of philanthropy where donor focus, retention, critical thinking, LTV, and leadership are the guiding lights. Culture eats strategy for lunch as they say.”

Over in Australia, someone went further: “Lack of support from other teams, lack of robust processes to support activities and seen as the ‘ugly sister’ of the organisation”.


Most fundraisers are simply trying to do too much, and want help prioritising or help to get more people.
One UK fundraiser told us:
Time! I’m happy to ask people for money and know the cause that we have is worth it but finding the time to do it all, or knowing what to do first, is a real challenge.”


Even when things are going well, many fundraisers told us they struggle to get an appropriate budget.  This connects with board and culture but is worth its own mention.

A fundraiser in Canada told Jeff:

“We are a really small shop. 1.2 mil operating budget. No dedicated fundraising staff.  Learning off the side of our desk. Challenge is how to scale without making costly mistakes.”

Reducing attrition of donors (churn).

As an Italian-based fundraiser told us:

“Increase monthly givers by lowering attrition rates (now around 20%) …” And she works at a large charity with very good retention!

And an Australia health charity fundraiser shares the same issue: “Having experienced initial growth, we have now plateaued with new donor acquisition matching attrition.”

Getting case studies.

A Winnipeg fundraiser sums up the feelings of many:

“Internally there is a communication problem between the fundraising office and the programs for which we fundraise, making it a challenge to get connections with our consumers for stories.”

Adequate fundraising training budget.

It really looks like training of fundraisers is rarely a priority for charity bosses.  Lack of training is clearly a cause of many of the ills affecting charities.  It really beggars belief that charity bosses are surprised or frustrated with their fundraising position when they don’t have adequate training!

One fundraiser in India struggles like their peers in other countries: “Another pressing problem is program restricted funding, making it difficult to carve out support for training, travel and exposure visits for non-programmatic functions like finance, admin, human resources, and fundraising.”

A shocking 20% of fundraisers said they had no training budget at all, with another 73% with less than $10,000 for training.  When I factored the number of staff in fundraising the proportions weren’t that much better.  For organisations with three or more staff, 91% didn’t have an adequate training budget.

I imagine for many of you there will be a lot of relief that your problems are shared universally! Few are unique to any type of charity, or any country the charity operates in.

Thank you to all those who completed Jeff’s survey. We will use a lot of the information to help drive free content and courses over the coming months for you.  As we work out how to help in each area, we will make a specific commitment and pledge and get on with helping you.  If we haven’t the skills or knowledge, we will use our extensive network and our wonderful advisory team to find ways to help you.

In the meantime – are any of these issues familiar to you?  Please let us know by posting your reply below.

Cheers, Sean

P.S. Here is what fundraisers told us were their training priorities…

Chart Training Priorities

P.P.S. Although two lucky charities get a 90-minute session with Jeff, and two unlucky charities get me for ninety minutes, we will be around to help EVERYONE who shares our values with great fundraising training over the coming months. Thank you! And if you would like a free ‘discovery’ call with us, please click here to book one right now!

CFRE Points:
Pop Art Woman Glasses OMG
Boards and FundraisingTrends

Shocker: The Biggest Problem in Fundraising

You spoke, I listened, and you freaked me out a little!

I’ve been in the fundraising space for a long time — approaching 30 years. That’s enough time to get married, have a couple of kids, and raise them into productive adulthood. Which is exactly what I’ve done during that time.

I thought 30 years would also be enough that I could legitimately say, I’ve seen everything.

Turns out I hadn’t seen everything.

They past couple of days, I’ve been reading survey responses from our recent Contest to give away some of my time to deserving organizations in the form of free 90-minute online Coaching+ sessions. To get a chance to win a session, we asked folks to fill out a quick survey about their organization, including a description of the main issues they struggle with — and most need help on. Nearly 300 people took the challenge.

Here’s where it got interesting. The most frequently cited area of trouble was this:

Bosses and/or boards who don’t get it and won’t allow us to do effective fundraising.

Whoa.  Think about that.  Our biggest perceived problem is the people who are supposed to be leading and empowering us!

I wasn’t born yesterday. I’ve been here long enough to know that bosses are often a problem.  I might have placed it in the top five problems.  Maybe as high as #2 or #3.

I know enough about surveys to know that lot of people saying something in answer to a question does not show us absolute Truth. The important thing as far as I’m concerned is that a lot of people perceive that their top problem is their boss.

So here’s my pledge to you:  I will help you overcome the “Boss Barrier.”  Either directly via our courses or Coaching+ at Moceanic … or indirectly because we’ll be talking up this issue and maybe get through to a few more people. Your own bosses, maybe!

Poor leadership is not unique to the nonprofit sector. (Oh boy is it ever not unique!)  But maybe we can tackle it here in our own backyard.  Let’s make it a priority.

Best wishes for non-interfered-with fundraising and we’ll be announcing the winners of the free 90-minute Coaching+ sessions later this week so stay tuned.

If you would care to share your experience with bosses and boards, please comment below!

Want some practical and experience-based help? Schedule a free 25-minute call  with one of our Moceanic Fundraisingologists. They will give you great free advice and help you identify which Coaching+ program might be right for you. Click here to book your call.
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