Monday Mixtape 026: Fundraiser Weaknesses, Fundraising Appeals, & More

Monday Mixtape 026: Effective Fundraising, Fundraising Appeals, & More

Here’s your Monday Mixtape, a weekly newsletter from CauseVox designed to jumpstart your week, challenge your thinking, and inspire you to keep at it.

Each week, we’ll hand-pick must-read articles, thinking, resources, and stories for nonprofit fundraisers and leaders and drop it in your inbox. Have suggestions or questions? Let us know at Enjoy this week’s Mixtape!

What’s your fundraising superpower?

You know, that one thing you hit out the park every time? Maybe it’s donor engagement, or running a peer-to-peer campaign, or direct mail. Something that you can definitely say, “That is in my wheelhouse.”

Okay, so what’s your fundraising kryptonite?

Mine is events. Nothing about them comes naturally to me. Every minute I spend planning a fundraising event probably shortens my life, they stress me out so much. What kind of sandwiches do people like and how many do we need? I DON’T KNOW, can I please go back to writing appeals?

It’s not fun to sit around thinking, “What are my biggest weaknesses?” but it is how you improve as a fundraiser.

This isn’t an invitation to be mean to yourself. Fundraising professionally requires a broad range of skills and no one’s uniformly strong in every area of the job. Everybody can learn and improve.

Fortunately, unlike certain superheroes, we don’t have to succumb to our personal kryptonite. We can learn how to manage it, overpower it, or work around it. This week, I’m looking at weaknesses and ways to work with them.

Here’s this week’s mix:

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” —Mark Twain

Track #1: How the Most Effective Leaders Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths by Miranda Zetlin at

This is aimed at entrepreneurs but applies much more universally. Miranda has a down-to-earth approach that I like: “You’re not good at everything, and neither is anyone else.”

Her recommendations are to recognize and accept your weaknesses, ask trusted people for guidance, over-prepare in your weak spots, hire or outsource your weak areas, get “good enough,” and to look for ways to help other people having the same problem.

I especially like that the solutions are focused on improvement, rather than perfection, and reaching a workable competency, rather than devoting your life to mastering the thing you’re not great at.

Track #2: Fundraising Appeal Best Practices: 5 Ways To Improve Your Next Appeal by Me 🙂 at CauseVox

If you feel like your fundraising appeals are a weak spot, you’re not alone. Those little pieces of communication have to do a lot, and writing them isn’t always easy. Still, the stronger your appeal, the stronger your fundraising will be. In this post, I offer five ways to boost your next fundraising appeal.

It probably won’t surprise you that storytelling is the first point on the list; telling a story immediately strengthens an appeal and helps donors connect with your cause. Getting personal, using an appropriately conversational tone, demonstrating impact, and keeping things brief, all build your appeal’s fundraising “muscle.”

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Weekly Wow: VisArts Raises $150,000 With Peer-to-Peer at Year-End

Over the last four years, VisArts has seen success by focusing not on new donor acquisition, but rather activating their current supporters through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

So, we recently interviewed Ginger Webber, VisArts’ director for individual giving, to dig into their success and find out how they activate their supporters through peer-to-peer during the busy year-end season. We’ve put together a summary of the learnings and insights for you here.

Track #3: A Proven Way To Get Better At Anything by Christopher Sowers at Better Humans

We know “practice makes perfect,” but how, exactly, do we practice effectively? This post gets into the nitty-gritty details of “deep” or “deliberate”  practice to improve skills. This is the kind of practice you see in movie montages: the determined athlete shoots the ball or the ballerina falls out of the pirouette over and over, getting slightly better each time until finally achieving the skill.

According to Christopher, to improve at a skill, we should focus on a small, repeatable action that provides instant pass/fail feedback. Think about shooting a basketball: you know immediately if you made the basket or not. To improve, choose a target that is just beyond your current skill level, and then work towards it. To continue to improve, keep moving your target just a little beyond what you can already do.

At first, this seems like it would only apply to physical skills, like playing the piano or juggling. However, upon further thought, I can see how it would work for less tangible things, like improving writing, small talk, public speaking, or other fundraising-related skills.

Track #4: Why Donors Don’t Give Second Gifts (And How You Can Improve Your Chances) by Tina Jepson at CauseVox

Donor retention is everybody’s kryptonite. Unless you’re operating at 100% donor retention (and if you are, please tell us what you’re doing!), you probably want to improve your retention rate. Here Tina investigates the reasons donors don’t give again, and what we can do about it.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: the number one reason donors don’t give again is that they’re not asked. Some donors also drop off when they’re not thanked, they don’t feel special, or they’re not engaged by the organization.

So what’s the key to stronger donor retention? Keeping up the communication, cultivating the donor relationship, demonstrating donor impact, and continually engaging people. Improving in these areas will improve donor retention overall.

Bonus Tracks:

For your personal montage …

A deeper dive …

By the way…

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It is not too soon to plan for #GivingTuesday. Strengthen your campaign with our free educational webinar on August 26 at 1PM (EST).

We’ll break down how you can plan and promote a successful #GivingTuesday campaign, talk about best practices, and give tips that other fundraisers have used to drive success.

You can learn more and register here.

Thanks for reading!

– Megan

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P.S. Questions about this week’s mix? Suggestions for next week? Don’t leave me in the dark. Let me know by emailing me at

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