Marc A. Pitman gets it. Marc betters the world by helping non-profits raise money. His book “Ask Without Fear” is a best seller and gives NP’s the tools needed to court dollars more effectively and he’s been featured on NBC, CBS, Fox News and more! He’s also part of the team at the recently launched 501 Mission Place (Part of Chris Brogan’s Human Business Works).  Marc graciously paused from his busy schedule to answer a few questions.

(1) In this economy what do you find are the best principles for quality engagement or donor involvement?

I’m finding an increasing desire on the part of donors to be involved beyond simply writing a check. They want to volunteer somehow. Nonprofits don’t seem ready for this, especially because volunteers aren’t terribly clear on what they want to do. Most seem to want something that fits into their schedule and is flexible while also having amazing impact on the cause.

Social media can be one way to get volunteers to help on their own terms. But nonprofits really need to reconsider donor involvement. There are a larger number of highly qualified Boomers retiring that often aren’t satisfied with the manual work of stuffing envelopes. Their skills are at strategic planning, visioning, accounting–professional, thought working skills. We need to re-examine our organizations to see how we can best receive volunteers.

Often, we simply need to ask our boards and volunteers, what is it that you’d like to do? Here’s what we see you bring to the table, what do you see?

And we need to be politely firm if the donor wants to do something that distracts us from our mission. A “mission-based no” is usually well received even by the most disappointed donor.

(2) What’s been the biggest surprise you’ve seen in fundraising this year? The biggest failure/misuse?

The biggest surprise? That giving has slightly declined in the US. We’re a generous people, but this is a very rare year. Granted, the best giving time of the year is now (as I write this) so that might turn around.

A failure I’m seeing more and more nonprofits make is their use of email. There are so many great services out there like Constant Contact or AWeber. But many are getting lazy and just using an image-based message. So the emails are coming up as blanks when I open them. I never allow emails to display images unless I know, like, and trust the sender.

Nonprofits are losing a chance to get their message to people like me because they’re simply not creating a plain text alternative for the email. It only takes a little longer, but it can significantly help get the word out.

Another problem I’m seeing is people using really small font in their direct mail. No direct mail should go out with font smaller than 11. The people that give by direct mail aren’t getting any younger. We need to help them if we’d like them to read our message.

(3) What’s a favorite non-profit organization of yours?

There are so many! The one that comes to mind right now is the Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic. They’re an incredibly skilled AND fun group of people passionate about humanely decreasing pet over population in Birmingham. I’m just helping them created a fundraising program but they are “getting it” and making it even better than I could’ve imagined.

(4) What are 3 things an organization could do today to benefit their holiday giving calendar?

Send a good fundraising letter: personalized, clear call to action in the PS, large enough font. But to raise real money, get out there and ask face-to-face! I recommend nonprofits Get R.E.A.L.! – Research, Engage, Ask, and Love.

  • Research your goal

How much you want to raise before December 31. As a Certified Franklin Covey Coach, I’m big on goal setting! After you have that number, use a gift range calculator to see what levels you should be asking at. Blackbaud has a calculator on their site. And I have a free one at

  • Research your prospects

Who do you know that you can ask to give at the levels it’ll take to reach your goal? Don’t worry about overasking. It’s better to over ask than under ask any day. Next to their names, jot down aspects of your organization or cause that you think they’d most resonate with.

  • Engage with those prospects

Call them up to set a time to talk about supporting your cause. Don’t get into the ask on the phone, just make the appointment.

  • Ask for the gift

Ask for a clear dollar amount. Don’t wimp out with a “Will you consider supporting our cause?” They don’t have any idea what you consider “support” so do them the service of being clear. I’ve never had anyone offended that I’ve asked too much. They laugh in my face but are never offended. If a specific dollar is scary, use the gift range calculator as a prop to help your asking.

  • Love

People are always more important than their level of giving. If they say yes, do all you can to thank them 7 times before the next solicitation. Show them that they’ve made a great choice.

If they say no, ask them what you can do to get into their top 10 giving priorities. But be gracious. The timing might really not be right for them so treat them well.

There is still alot of time left to raise large amounts of money.

[There’s more on this at the “Articles” section of my site. The article is called “Do It Yourself Fundraising.”]

(5) What’s the best way for a non-profit to partner with a corporation?

Find some legitimate reason for the corporation to give. Do your research:

  • What is the corporation already giving to?
  • What is the corporation known for?
  • Who is the corporation marketing to?

Corporations are made up of individuals, so that reason may be an employee that is pysched about your cause. But figure out what’s in it for them. I tell clients to PYITS: Put Yourself in Their Shoes. Think like a business owner with scant resources. Would you give in the way you’re approaching the corporation to?

I recommend you approach the marketing division first. They always have bigger budgets than the charitable office.

Thank you Marc for taking the time to answer my questions, great info! Sign up for his email newsletter here, check out his book “Ask Without Fear” here and be sure to connect with him personally on Twitter.

How will you use this info? Has it helped you?

One Comment

Comments are closed.