The Art of Fundraising – 5 Best Fundraising Practices for an Arts & Culture Organization


Donations are the livelihood of your organization.  And fundraising can be challenging.  It’s both an art and a science.  In order to unlock the best practices out there, you need to find out what is making fundraising and research campaigns successful and, frankly, what’s not.  Here are five best practices for successful fundraising:

  1.  Capture Ticketing Data to Identify Donor Potential
    Arts and Culture organizations have a unique pool of individuals – their ticket purchasers – who already demonstrate a genuine interest in the mission and work of their organization. These ticket buyers already contribute to your organization’s revenue stream and represent a natural prospect pool. Once these individuals have purchased tickets and walked through your doors, you are presented with a far greater advantage—they are engaged and interested in the offerings of your organization. Now they must be cultivated while their interest level is high.  ​High performing organizations usually have a strategy to harness the information collected during ticketing. Information can be captured through online ticket purchases, surveys, and visitor kiosks placed at entrances.
  2. Leverage Membership to Fuel Your Donor Pipeline
    Your donors like to feel involved with your organization.  The benefits of membership are to regularly engage people in the mission of your organization and then to encourage them to support it financially.  By paying quality attention to this membership group, your organization can get a lively pipeline of  donors ready to be nurtured and promoted to the next donation tier. Benefits could include: discounts, valet parking, special events, backstage tours, post-performance receptions, event privileges, gift store discounts, educational seminars, magazine subscriptions, and free admission.
  3. Leverage Your Board to Build an Inner Circle
    While some organizations see active fundraising participation from their board and volunteers, others wish theirs were more active and involved.  The model board candidate has a circle of friends that show a similar giving capacity and inclination toward the Arts.  You want your board members to reach out to these friends and help the development team cultivate with a personal touch, ultimately strengthening your organization’s major gift pipeline.
  4. Invest in Screening
    Upgrading current donors and identifying new prospects are challenges for arts organizations.  Invest in a screening of your donors and prospects to determine who has the capacity, propensity, and affinity to donate to your organization.  Screening can help you fill in the gaps and deepen your data records so you can better segment and prioritize.
  5. Manage Your Data Proactively
    The recording and updating of donor records is a must in successful fundraising.  Properly run Donor Management Systems (DMS) secure accurate and easy to follow-up results from research and wealth screenings. A well-managed DMS and solid implementation plan is indispensable. One of the most significant ways to increase the value of the data from your wealth screening is to integrate the results into your DMS. The DMS allows your team to compile information on all donors including their contact information, giving history, special event attendance, ticketing history and other interactions with the organization.

Fundraising as an arts organization poses its own set of challenges. Don’t let these challenges derail your fundraising. Use these tips to set your organization up for success.

Want to enhance your fundraising campaign for #GivingTuesday? Download our #GivingTuesday Toolkit and get access to social media posts, email templates, and more!

Do you have a story to share about successful fundraising in your arts organization? Share in the comments below.


Setting the Stage for Success in Your Data-Driven Major Gift Campaigns


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a nonprofit plunge head-first into a capital campaign.  

Here’s the scenario: A capital campaign gets fast tracked to start. Great, right? Well, no feasibility study has been performed. An astronomically high goal is set, because, hey, why not? This is a great organization, right? The board of directors is totally gung-ho, but they’re hand’s off. The CEO thinks it’s a great idea, but is also hand’s off. Everybody is on board except …

You guessed it. The Development Team.  

Have you ever felt as if you were thrown under the bus? Yeah, that’s the feeling a development team gets when management tells them to go out and work miracles based on what? Hubris? Desire? An “edifice complex”? 

These are absolutely the wrong reasons to start a major fundraising effort like a capital campaign.  

As a fundraising professional, wouldn’t you like to speak truth to power? Wouldn’t you like to nip this kind of magical thinking in the bud? Most of all, wouldn’t you like to know that you and your colleagues won’t bear the brunt of this kind of magical thinking?

One thing that senior management does tend to listen to is data. Sure, statistics can be manipulated by spinmeisters, but data is pretty black and white. That’s why it behooves any non-profit considering a capital or other major gift campaign to take a data-driven approach.

It takes some work, but you can do an internal audit to assess your organization’s readiness for the heavy lifting ahead.

Learn about this and much, much more, in part 1 of our Data-Driven Major Gifts Campaign workbook. Download Part 1. To accompany the workbook will be a three-part webinar series, the first scheduled for August 25, 2016 with Catherine McGrath, principal with Marts & Lundy, along with Linda Garrison, WealthEngine senior consultant. Register for the webinar. 

Want to start a discussion now? Contact us or leave a message in the comments below. 


Changing Trends for Luxury Marketers


The luxury landscape is changing. Gone are the days where companies can get by simply with their brand names. Increased competition in the marketplace means that these companies need to compete for buyers and share of wallet. Today, we’ll explore 3 changing trends in the luxury market. Understand these, and you’ll stay a few steps ahead of your competition as top-of-mind with your potential buyers.

Trend 1: All Wealthy Are Not the Same

Who are your most likely customers? It’s a question that all businesses better have an answer to. In the past a company might answer this with a general answer, such as wealthy men in their 50’s. However, it’s become somewhat more nuanced than that now.

In order to maximize your sales and keep attracting prospects, you’ll have to realize that all wealthy prospects are not the same. “Affluent” and “wealthy” are no longer one category to lump all high net worth individuals into. You need to delve deeper into their habits and lifestyle to make an informed decision as to who is most likely to make a purchase. When targeting prospects and growing current customers, you need to build out targeted segments. This includes having the propensity to buy your luxury products, or wealth. But it also includes other characteristics that make them unique. 

You have probably heard a lot lately about the role of analytics in building your marketing and development strategies. This applies to wealth intelligence, as well. In order to reach the most eligible clients, you need analytics to show you an accurate portrait of your customer: wealth, demographics, and lifestyle. 

Trend 2: Online Marketing and Social Media Have Changed the Playing Field

What defines your customer? Chances are that they are telling you all about themselves on social media platforms – whether it’s pictures of their favorite styles on Instagram, stories about their vacations on Facebook, or complaining about poor service on Twitter. You just need to listen and communicate effectively back within those channels.

Successful online marketing is more than getting your message out there. Your current consumers use social media to share their “likes” and positive experiences, and to communicate these impressions to their peers and friends. Your online messaging needs to connect on an individual basis and engage your clients in a healthy dialogue. This messaging allows you a glimpse into your potential patrons’ lifestyles and online activities.

Using these online profiles and analytics allow you to understand potential wealth and patterns. These insights provide a range of data for you to build your strategy to target the right prospects more efficiently.

Trend 3: Customer Loyalty is Key

Who do your customers know? You already know that your most loyal customers create revenue you count on every year. But do you know how to grow your average customers into loyalists that will drive increased sales and referrals?

Customer loyalty comes from an understanding of your patrons’ behavior. Once you have built your current customer’s loyalty, you can leverage their profile data to create a targeted list of prospects that look just like your current ones through look-alike models. After all, if you had to define the perfect group of new customers, wouldn’t you want to find ones that look like your best current ones?

Looking at your loyal customer base also helps you to grow and build your clientele based on your current consumer’s referrals. We all listen to our friends’ and colleagues’ experiences; this information can make or break your company’s reputation. Make sure your value and brand are working for you and you capitalize on the word of mouth from your loyal customer base.

Focusing on these three trends within your marketing initiatives can help you bring your luxury brand into the modern world and blow away the competition. Remember, you have to fully understand your customers before you can know how to best talk to them.

Read how luxury jeweler Buccellati increased their market penetration with WealthEngine. 

Do you have a success story of your own in the luxury retail space? Share it with us in the comments below.




Three Keys to Creating a Sustainable Fundraising Program: Planning to Excel


WealthEngine works with nonprofits across the spectrum, from the largest universities, hospitals, and international aid organizations to local and regional arts and social service agencies.  Many of those who reach out to us are startups who have a passion, a vision and willing hands, but lack fundraising expertise and have few or no resources to hire trained staff members. In this three part blog series we offer three keys to help make your fundraising program more sustainable.

Welcome back to the final part of our 3-part series on creating a sustainable fundraising program. We started with discussing board members and their impact on fundraising in our first post, Who’s on Board? Last week, we covered fundraising lists in Your Most Valuable Asset

As you grow your list, it is important to have a communication plan in place to maintain with these new and prospective donors.  There is no point in collecting names unless you have a solid plan to steward your donors and cultivate your prospects.  This is, by no means a full plan, but instead a starting point for the board to develop a working plan:

  • Stewardship – When a donation is received it should be acknowledged as soon as possible – industry standard would suggest within 48 hours.  Any sizable donations could be acknowledged with a thank you phone call from a board member and a written note. Donors want to know how their donation is helping, so be sure your acknowledgement cites how the donation will be used.  Later communications should assure the donor that the donation was indeed used in that way. Sharing results goes a long way.  
  • Communications – Donors like to be kept in the loop and consistent communications are a best practice.  Some communications may be appeals for additional support or to upgrade support, and others should be educational or informational.  I would recommend no fewer than 6-8 communications per year, with 4 being appeals for support.  You may give people an opportunity to say they only want one appeal per year, and honor that.  You may also suppress individuals from appeals depending on what their response has been. Asking for multiple gifts in one year is a best practice, however, and increases the likelihood that you will retain that donor the second year.
  • Recurring Gifts – Make it a priority to upgrade donors to recurring giving.  These “sustainers” are a source of steady support that is easily renewed. Telephone is a good method for converting one-time donors to sustaining donors, although if you have limited staff and volunteer time, you may make this one of your written appeals.
  • Diversification of Communication Channels and Consistency of Message – Use a combination of media to communicate, including direct mail, telephone, email and social media.  If you have sent a direct mail appeal, amplify it with the same theme, ask, and story on social media, through email, and on your website.
  • Collect Information – Determine the key pieces of contact information that you need to collect, and make every communication a chance for the recipient to provide more of it. Response slips should have blank spaces for name, address, telephone, and email. Landing pages on the website should also allow (but not require) individuals to provide more information.

These are a few rules of thumb to consider when planning your annual activities, but you and your board should spend a working session planning a yearly communications calendar to include mailings and other appeals, newsletters, blog posts, special events, invitations, and more.  You can use this Activities Calendar template for your planning session.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this 3-part series on how to create a sustainable fundraising program.  While these ideas are industry best practices and tried and true methods, every nonprofit and every nonprofit board is unique.  WealthEngine consultants have decades of experience working with nonprofits of all types, and can easily do a Quick Audit for your organization.  This two-day process will result in an affordable and actionable plan to guide you towards sustained, consistent fundraising revenue.  

Do you have a story to share about creating a sustainable fundraising program? Share in the comments below.




3 Keys for Creating a Sustainable Fundraising Program: Your Most Valuable Asset


WealthEngine works with nonprofits across the spectrum, from the largest universities, hospitals, and international aid organizations to local and regional arts and social service agencies.  Many of those who reach out to us are startups who have a passion, a vision and willing hands, but lack fundraising expertise and have few or no resources to hire trained staff members. In this three part blog series we offer three keys to help make your fundraising program more sustainable.

Welcome to the second of our 3-part series on creating a sustainable fundraising program. In last week’s blog post, Who’s on Board? we addressed the impact board members can have on fundraising.  While addressing board expansion is critical to future success, there are other considerations of nonprofit governance and fundraising for a young board to consider when developing plans to expand or develop a sustainable organization.  This post will focus on one of the most important considerations, which also happens to be your most valuable asset – your fundraising list.

Some organizations have a natural constituency ideal for fundraising.  Colleges and universities have alumni, theaters have ticket buyers, and hospitals have patients.  However, many nonprofits fill niches in our social fabric that serve many that don’t have a large, affluent natural constituency.  For these organizations, the need to build a strong house list for fundraising purposes is critical.  Without a list of donors and a consistent inflow of unrestricted dollars, they will not be able to achieve a sustainable source of monthly giving.  

In today’s digital world, there are two important channels in which to grow your list:

Website:  Your website is the hub of all your activity. The majority of your outreach will drive individuals to visit your website. Therefore, it must have the ability to capture attention, make a good impression, and most importantly, capture information from your visitors so you can communicate with them in some way.

Some ideas for website optimization could include:

  • Add a ‘Donate’ or button to each page and make sure it’s easily found to increase list signup and donations.
  • Capture email signups on each page of your site; add an offer to each of these links to increase the likelihood that people convert.
  • Create premium gated content, such as a white paper or e-book, on your site that gives more information about your cause, clients, or success stories. Collect email addresses to allow users to download.

Do you notice a theme here? You are including calls to action throughout your website to make it easy to capture information. Don’t make your visitors search around on your website to donate or subscribe to your content. Your website should be easy to navigate so visitors can find what they are looking for in as few clicks as possible. After all, you’re looking to gain advocates – not lose them!

Social Media:  Using social channels is a great way to build community. Some options include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and many more. While the channels may differ, your strategy should be similar. The posts and content that you share should invite dialogue and feedback. Including calls to action in your posts to drive people to your website to capture names and addresses will be a good way to potentially increase your list. 

Examples posts could include: 

  • Do you think it’s harder to be a teen today than in the past? Why or why not?  Do you have a story to share?  How did you find your way out of a difficult situation?
  • Have you or a friend or loved one been in need of family services only to be told “there’s a two week waiting list,” or “We don’t have room?”.  What services do you think our area is lacking?  How would you address those needs if you could?
  • Did you know: One in ten teens in our area lives in fear of abuse from a parent or guardian? Find out more (link to your website)
  • We’re filling a gap in mental health services in our community.  If you believe that every teen deserves the chance to find peace and faith in a safe, secure and professionally run home, join our mailing list to receive updates and opportunities to become involved.
  • How does a house become a home? LOVE.  Follow along as we transform House of Hope into a home for troubled teens.  Visit our website for photos and progress updates!

Use images wisely throughout your social posts. While text contains the content that your visitors will engage with, pictures help draw them in and get your initial clicks.

Web and Social tactics aren’t the only ways to build a list. There are some other things you can do to increase the size of your audience: 

  • Your board members can contribute. They may include some of their personal contacts, but the purpose is to build your major program/prospect list. 
  • Events can be an excellent way to get attention for your mission and cause. They can also work to grow your list and bring in substantial funds as well. At your events, think of mechanisms that will allow you to collect the names and addresses (email or physical) such as ticket purchases or sign-ups for a giveaway/raffle.  
  • Partnerships with organizations that have complementary missions, civic groups, or corporate sponsors can help provide additional names to your list. In addition, you could also obtain budgetary support, speaking opportunities to share your story directly with their members of employees, volunteers, or advocates for the mission within the larger community.
  • WealthEngine has a unique prospecting tool called WE Prospect. You can build a custom audience with criteria such as geography, net worth, charitable interests, and more. Check out this exceptional list-building tool.

Finally, you should define what you think your “perfect” supporter looks like.  Are there different types? Can you develop several personas to help describe the audience you want to reach?  This could help as you write fundraising letters or newsletter articles, and also as you develop ideas for special events, advertising, and other list-building activities. Discover how to create personas in five simple steps. 

Building a solid list of supporters and potential supporters is essential for any nonprofit.  In fact, many would argue that your list is your most valuable asset. But building a list without having a plan in place to communicate with your new friends, steward them, and involve and educate them is a wasted effort.  

Do you have a story to share about how you’ve grown your list? Share in the comments below.

Tune in next week for the final post in our series, Planning to Excel. We will share the tools you need to develop a solid donor communications plan.