By Sara Lundenberger – Director of nonprofit consulting

We have all seen the emails, blogs and listicles about top fundraising trends for 2019. And don’t get me wrong – when planning for 2019, being creative and staying on top of trends is really important. Trends can show us how people are choosing to give, to whom and how much. They can also help identify new audiences and tell us the best way to reach them.

However, it is also important to consider the “not so trendy” stuff, too – AKA, the basics that have proven to be successful in fundraising.

Last week, Dot Org president Amy Wong shared some tips about planning a successful 2019 for your organization. So, this week, I thought I would give some old school thoughts to keep in mind when planning for 2019.

Tell a compelling story.

Regardless of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials or Gen 2020, donors are looking for two key pieces of information from you:

  • What are you going to do with my donation?
  • What impact did you make (with my help)?

They want to know who you are helping and why it matters to them. Gone are the days of donors writing a check without really thinking about the organization and how they used it to do actual work – so tell your current donors! They are smart and savvy, so you need to make sure to communicate why your organization should be at the top of their list. (Read this blog about all of the ways donors can research your organization before giving.)

Use stories, statistics and photos to tell your donors why what you do is important and how their donation helped. If they don’t know what their donation accomplished, they can easily find another organization to support. You are doing great work so make sure your donors know that.

Grow your list organically.

As fundraisers, we sometimes get so caught up in getting more donors that we forget one of the simplest fundraising principles: The people closest to your organization are the most likely to give.

Ask yourselves: are you seeking donations from  your board, employees, volunteers, members, clients, etc.?

The idea of buying lists and getting hundreds or thousands of names is something we get asked about a lot. But, look at it from your own life – how often do you receive a completely unsolicited mailing at home? If you are like me, I have a few thoughts:

“How did I get on this list (and how do I get off of it)? Who are these people and why are they asking me for money?”

Finally, consider this: receiving one donation for every 250 appeals you send can be considered a success. That’s a lot of time, energy and money to put behind a very small return.*

*There is a lot more to discuss when talking about purchasing lists. I don’t think we have a blog about that yet, but stay tuned – I think that will be my topic next month.


I realize this one seems silly, since your main job is literally asking people for money, but bear with me for a second.

How many times do you post on social, send a newsletter or meet someone new – and don’t ask if they would be interesting in donating, volunteering or being added to your mailing/emailing list? We can sometimes feel like all we are doing is asking people to support us through annual appeals and fundraising events, but your donors may not feel like that.

Look back at everything your donors received last year and count how many “asks” they really received. You may be surprised. According to Tom Ahern, you should be mailing your donors at least eight times a year, split between appeals and stewardship/cultivation/information pieces for the annual fund alone.

The three basic principles for fundraising is to find people that are interested in supporting your organization, able give and ASKED TO GIVE! Don’t be ashamed to say that you need help and ask others for it.

Say, “Thank You.”

When I was a kid, I can remember my mom and dad saying over and over again – “Say thank you,” to the server at a restaurant or to my aunts and uncles on my birthday. Saying thank you has been ingrained in most of us since we were little. Not only is it extremely easy to do, but it’s also nice to hear. In this fast-paced world, I still smile when I hear someone say thank you throughout my day and get a little annoyed when I do something nice like hold the door and I don’t get a thank you.

Donors also like to be thanked – in a timely, correct and personalized manner.

Thanking donors is not just a one and done letter. Keep thanking them throughout the year. Use the completion of a project or when something really great happens at your organization as a reason to reach out.


Though these tips may not be the biggest giving trends in 2019, they are certainly proven ways to raise money for your organization. Segmenting your data, sending personalized information based on the donor’s interests and creating a text-to-give campaign might increase your donations from specific groups of people.

It can be exciting and fun to implement the shiny new thing at your organization – just don’t forget what got you this far.

Want to learn more about our fundraising and nonprofit consulting services? Contact us at 330.247.2180 or at [email protected]