Black and white photo of George Bernard Shaw at his typewriterGeorge Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been achieved.” Man is that true! Sometimes communication unfolds like the childhood game “pass the secret.” You know, when you have a lot of people in a circle and one person starts by whispering a “truth” to the person beside them. That person whispers to the next and so on until you reach the last person who reveals the secret. It seemed that no matter what was first communicated, by the end it came out “my dog lives on your roof with my grandmother” or some other nonsense. No matter the relationship, it seems that achieving effective communication can be treacherous.

Non-profit organizations are not immune to this challenge when seeking to effectively communicate to their donors. Many times we compound the inherent pitfalls by not starting with a clear strategy, effective message, specific objective and well-defined audience. We go one step further down the wrong path many times by making the common mistakes of “do-it-yourself” communicators rather than employing the appropriate expertise to do the job.

How do you stop this communication “illusion” and actually “achieve” effective communication? Well, if I had all of the answers I would be making a fortune writing a book to teach men how to better communicate with their significant others or parents with their children. However, what I do know is that there are some very specific actions to developing a communications strategy, creating the messaging and materials, and appropriately delivering the right communication to the right audience to enhance your fundraising efforts.

If you want to find out these secrets, join Lee Neel, Vice President of Marketing for The Fundraising Resource Group and Daniel Neel, President, for a FREE webinar on June 26, 2012 entitled, Design and Messaging for Winning Campaign Materials: Avoiding Common Mistakes of “DYI” Communicators. This session is designed to teach participants to:

  • Develop a strategy statement for their organization’s campaign communications
  • Understand the elements that create strong branding and communications
  • Strategically implement effective communications in fundraising activities

Lee brings over 25 years of marketing communications experience, working for high-profile advertising agencies in Manhattan and Dallas and with notable corporate brands. A gifted strategist and analyst, Lee has a broad set of capabilities that include strategic planning, brand positioning and messaging, campaign materials development, traditional media and online marketing, public relations and project management. Lee also has extensive non-profit experience working with many organizations across the country and holds a Masters Degree in Advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Daniel has more than 28 years of professional fundraising and financial services experience, developing comprehensive fundraising programs for organizations across the country.

You can sign up for this webinar and find out more about The Fundraising Resource Group at

Please join us for this webinar on June 26, 2012 at 2 PM EDT and help get grandma off the roof.

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Charity Navigator logoWhat is your fundraising return on investment (ROI)? The Standards for Excellence®: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector provide clear guidance in the area of fundraising revenue and expenses and honoring donor intent. Section 7A of the code states, “A nonprofit’s fundraising costs should be reasonable over time. On average, over a five year period, a nonprofit should realize revenue from fundraising and other development activities that are at least three times the amount spent on conducting them.” This 3:1 ratio is the minimum standard required to maintain the Seal of Excellence from the Institute.

According to CharityWatch, spending $35 to raise $100 is acceptable, which means it will get you a “C” in fundraising. Charity Navigator recognizes that there are differences based on the type of organization and incorporates those differences in their rating system. The chart below shows that, generally speaking, if you want to be above average, you need to be spending less than 20 cents of each dollar you raise:

Chart shows acceptable amount of money to spend on fundraising in various nonprofit industries. According to CharityWatch, spending $35 to make $100 is acceptable but would give you a fundraising grade of "C", for example.

So how do you get there? Well it is not by doing another event or one more mailing. The fastest and most efficient way to increase your fundraising ROI is to adopt a major gift mindset. A recent study shows that “the cost spectrum for fundraising methodologies ranged from a low of $0.12 per dollar raised to a high of $1.50 per dollar raised. Major gifts, partnerships, capital campaigns, planned giving and sponsorships were in the lower cost range, while acquisition mailings, special events, and telemarketing were in the higher cost range, with direct mail to existing donors and earned revenue in the medium cost range” (Spears and Morrison, Philanthropic Trends, 2005). You are lucky if you get to keep half of every dollar you raise from an event (before allocating staff time), and the return on mailings will never get you to that 4:1 revenue to cost ratio you should achieve.

It is not easy to adopt and effectively execute a major gift mindset throughout the organization. It takes leadership buy-in, patience and expertise.

The Fundraising Resource Group recognizes these challenges as we work with organizations across the country to help them adopt this mindset and effectively implement or enhance a major gift strategy. To help get you started, or at least thinking about it, we offer a FREE WEBINAR called Significantly Increase Your Fundraising ROI: A Major Gift Mindset. While there is no way to get all that you need in a one hour webinar, we will give you some practical tips and tools to:

  • Identify a major donor for your organization
  • Create and manage major gift portfolios
  • Develop individual major donor plans
  • Solicit major gifts
  • Measure and track major gift fundraising success

Fundraising executives, CEOs and board members should all attend this webinar to understand the importance of major gift fundraising and what it will take to adopt that mindset. After all, a mindset is a terrible thing to waste, and so are precious financial resources given by generous donors.  A recording of the webinar is also available to nonprofits upon request.

For more information about The Fundraising Resource Group’s relational fundraising and marketing services, visit our website at