How to create a fundraising plan

Fundraising PlanThe fundraising plan is at the core of successful fundraising. But what exactly is a fundraising plan? Is it a spreadsheet? A list of activities? A list of potential donors and funders? Our answer: it’s this and so much more.

Here are four things to consider when creating your fundraising plan.

First, your fundraising plan should be rooted in your strategic plan. The strategic plan sets the direction for your organization, and the fund development plan guides your fundraising activities so the resources needed to implement the strategic plan are available. Your fund development plan should be created as part of the strategic planning process, or as quickly thereafter as possible. Your fundraising goal should be drawn from the strategic plan. This is the core of your fundraising plan: how much do you need to raise, how will the funds be used, and what impact will result. If your strategic plan does not include financial projections, then you must put pen-to-paper and figure out your projected costs. You have to know what you are raising money for and how much it will cost in order to create an effective fundraising plan.

Second, include an initial version of the case for support. This document is a primary communication piece that focuses your fundraising. Use the projections and information mentioned above to clearly and concisely communicate your fundraising story. Use facts and figures, projected impact, and emotion to make your case to individuals, foundations, corporations and/or government agencies.

Third, define your campaign structure and roles and responsibilities. Your plan must include roles and responsibilities for staff and volunteers so everyone knows what they are responsible for and can hold each other responsible. These can be used when recruiting volunteers: they let people know what specifically you need help with.

Fourth, create fundraising activity chart. This is the “heart” of the plan. It should cover a two-to-three year period, broken down into quarters. The chart should communicate actions to be taken, person responsible, projected outcome, and time frame. It must include the key fundraising tasks of identifying, cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding current and prospective donors. It should be reviewed and refined each quarter.

For example, if your nonprofit seeks major gifts your activity chart should communicate who is responsible for cultivating which donors, and when the cultivation and solicitation activities should take place. Don’t save everything for the 4th quarter. Likewise, special event fundraising should begin a year in advance.

Your fundraising plan should cover two-to-three years, be easy-to-read and understand, and become your go-to source for all things fundraising. Be sure to include a budget – what you project it will cost you to meet your fundraising goal. Remember to use your plan as a constant reference. Let it guide your progress and inform your adjustments.

Related resources

1.     How will you fund your strategic plan

2.     Vision, mission and fundraising

3.     To hire or to plan, which comes first

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Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.


Black Philanthropy Month

It’s August – that means it’s Black Philanthropy Month.

Black Philanthropy MonthToo often philanthropy is still viewed as a word that belongs to someone else – a word associated primarily with a small percentage of white people with wealth who give large transformative gifts. Yet the word philanthropy means love of humankind – a love expressed in a great diversity of ways by a great diversity of people. And that is the value of Black Philanthropy Month. To remind us that we are philanthropists and that we can – and do – make an impact in our local communities and globally. It encourages black donors to declare, “I’m a black philanthropist” and to get busy on social media with #IamABP.

We must view our giving as philanthropy. We have to see ourselves as philanthropists, and encourage each other to step-up our giving especially to those causes where we are disproportionately and severely impacted. Sometimes it feels as if we as a culture have forgotten what got us to where we are today: sharing resources with each other, supporting our churches, colleges and universities. For much of our history black churches were the seat of philanthropy. In communities across the country that’s still true. At the same time philanthropy has become more sophisticated, and advanced beyond passing the basket.

When we speak of philanthropy as “sophisticated” we are referring to the process of defining philanthropic priorities, figuring how to “sell” our priorities, having a multi-year plan, being involved, creating awareness, recruiting donors and influencers, securing short and long term commitments, and assuming visible leadership. We have to demonstrate our commitment with our giving, involvement and leadership. For example, if we believe initiatives such as education (K-12 and higher education), eliminating poverty, decreasing incarceration, and increasing health are priorities then that’s where we need to visibly invest our time, money and talent. We can’t wait for someone else to lead our causes.

With the African American consumer market exceeding a trillion dollars, we know we can change conditions in our communities and take a seat at the philanthropic table as equal partners. We can give individually and most importantly we can combine our gifts with others to increase our collective impact.

We also need to use our positions as executives within corporations, foundations and major nonprofits to advance initiatives that benefit the African American community as well as causes in Africa and across the diaspora.

Corporate America values our contributions as consumers. Now we need to be appreciated for our philanthropy. We are more than the recipients of philanthropy: we are donors and influencers.

Black Philanthropy Month was created in August 2011 by Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network as an annual, global celebration of African-descent giving. Let’s use Black Philanthropy Month as a time to recommit to growing a culture of giving.

Related posts:

Black gives back

African American Men and Philanthropy

African American Men Uniting to Support Community Nonprofit Organizations

Ruby Bright Honored as Leader in Women’s Funding Movement

Resources: and and #BPM2015.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Nonprofit solicitation cycle

donateWhen is the right time to solicit a gift from a current donor? Do you send a letter once a year and hope for a gift? That’s one strategy. Some nonprofits believe it is a good one. Their logic: “we don’t want our donors to feel we’re always asking for a gift” Here’s our guidance: begin the solicitation process when you say “thank you.”

You want to create awareness, provide opportunities for engagement, report on your progress, and encourage donors to make additional gifts. Touch your donors with three solicitations throughout the year: two should occur before your year-end solicitation. Each donor should hear from you throughout the year, regardless of the size of their gift. Tailor your communication to meet their method of giving.

Here are 11 suggestions for your consideration.

  1. When you receive a gift send a thank you note and receipt within 48 hours.
  2. Take a moment to create a connection: depending on the size of the gift and the location of the donor follow up with a visit, phone call or personal email.
  3. Keep your donors informed. Send a progress report on the organization, your campaign and impact. Include photos and quotes. Share upcoming events and dates. Keep it short – make every word count. Send via U.S. mail or email. You can also post to social media, but don’t let that take the place of personalized communication.
  4. Extend an invitation to visit your facilities and see your programs in action. Invite donors by phone, or with an electronic or print invitation. Again, keep it personal.
  5. Encourage donors to become involved. Share information about one-time or ongoing volunteer opportunities. Be as personal as you can, inviting people to volunteer for programs or activities you believe are a match with their interests.
  6. When you have events take the time to send an invitation. Pick up the phone for an extra personal touch for long term supporters (regardless of gift size) and major donors.
  7. Send another progress report. Consider highlighting a specific program. Include a solicitation. Don’t worry – you are not “over asking.” People cannot give if you don’t give them an opportunity to support your work.
  8. If you haven’t yet made a personal call, have someone from your organization call to share information and provide an update.
  9. Send a “state of the organization” report. Written by the executive director, this is an annual review sharing the strengths, challenges and opportunities facing the organization. Go ahead, include a solicitation.
  10. In early November send out your year-end solicitation.
  11. Start the cycle again with thank you.

Think of this: 30% of this year’s donors may not give again next year. Can you afford that?

Thank you begins and ends the solicitation cycle for a nonprofit.

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Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

What is a worthy cause?

Whats a Worthy CauseWe noticed that people – including ourselves – talk about “worthy” causes. In many ways the phrase is a “seal of approval.” Yet what’s “worthy” to one person or group, isn’t necessarily “worthy” to another. The phrase assumes shared values, but doesn’t always make clear what those values are, or why the cause is worthy.

Does helping one person make a cause a worthy? We’ve heard people say, “if we help just one person, it’s worth it.” We tend to question that logic: is it really “worth it” – for example – to have an organization with a $300,000 annual operating budget that “helps just one person?” We know that’s an exaggeration, but on a feeling level, many people feel that way about organizations they are passionate about. They are saying “our work is priceless.” That may be true, and there is a price attached to the work of nonprofits. In most communities – and in most households – there are limited funds and resources to be allocated.  The issue of worthiness arises in the creation of criteria by which we make decisions. Some of these are spoken, and some of these are unspoken and often unconscious.

Other people believe an organization is worthy if it reaches a large number of people, has economies of scale, talented leadership, effective programs, consistent evaluation, and highly qualified staff. They can “make a dollar go far” – and that is the source of their “worthiness.”

Some organizations serve people and families that other nonprofits cannot reach. Some offer specialized services to hard-to-serve populations, or to communities where “tried and true” solutions just don’t work. The cost to serve one individual or family may be higher for these organizations, than others. Does that make them less worthy or more worthy? Who decides?

Related to this, which is more important: direct services that impact the lives of individual families and help them meet their immediate needs, or investments in public policy that change conditions for large numbers of people? Who decides which is more “worthy?”

“Worthiness” is a designation bestowed for different reasons. Sometimes an organization’s mission is deemed worthy and that overrides the question of whether or not their impact or outcome is worthy. Worthiness can be bestowed when a donor makes a gift. It is also a designation bestowed by the people served or advocated for.

The dictionary defines worthy as “good and deserving respect, praise, or attention; having enough good qualities to be considered important, useful, etc.  Having worth or value: estimable. Or, having sufficient worth or importance.

Our question to you: how do you define “worthy?” Can you communicate the value of your organization without using the word “worthy” or implying that others are somehow less worthy? What exactly makes your organization worthy?

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Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Nonprofit fundraising values

Values are at the heart of a nonprofit and its operations. Our question to readers: what are your fundraising values?

MoneyWe truly understand the importance of securing money and resources. At the same time we caution against a “money first” approach to fundraising. We believe that fundraising should be grounded in a nonprofit’s values. We offer six fundraising values for your consideration.

  1. The goals and visions of a nonprofit should first meet the needs of the community served. We all have individual dreams and a vision for a better tomorrow. When crafting or reviewing the vision and goals for your nonprofit make sure they meet community needs and are more than a vehicle for your personal aspirations. Make clear how your nonprofit will benefit your community, and keep community benefit as a priority at all times.
  2. Leadership should fully understand and support the nonprofit’s vision and goals. There should be no question about the organization’s or institution’s vision for the future, and how it will progress towards that vision. The executive staff and board should use the nonprofit’s vision and goals as a compass to guide their individual and collective work.
  3. A successful nonprofit should be volunteer led. While the nonprofit sector is increasingly professionalized with staff hired to support the implementation of a nonprofit’s vision and goals, each nonprofit should have strong volunteer leadership. Professional staff help ensure a full-time focus on the nonprofit’s work by individuals who believe in the vision and have the professional qualifications to deliver the services promised in the mission and goals. Volunteer leaders help keep the organization grounded in its vision and focused on its goals. When volunteers take the lead in raising funds, the impact can be far greater than a fundraising initiative that is staff driven.
  4. Fundraising should start with the strengths and resources that are currently available. Start where you are and take advantage of the opportunities available to your nonprofit and then extend your reach. Many nonprofits have relationships with individuals who want to provide resources, make introductions, or host home/office events. Start there. Make your case.
  5. A fundraising initiative should be guided by a plan that is derived from the organization’s strategic or business plan, and influenced by market research (feasibility study). Don’t jump into fundraising with a “we need money” approach. Craft your strategic business plan, learn how others respond to your plan, and then begin fundraising in a consistent, systematic way.
  6. The operations of a nonprofit should be open and transparent. We can’t say it enough. Be open, accountable, and keep your operations and financials transparent. There should be no secrets. Answer questions honestly; proactively provide information regarding finances, operations, impact and outcomes.

Your fundraising values can guide your decisions for short-term and long-term success.

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Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

How to write targeted proposals

Last week’s column focused on six basic things you should know before writing a proposal. With this column, we address three more nuanced things to consider.

Writing Targeted ProposalsSome nonprofits create a “boilerplate” proposal and send it out to as many foundations and corporations as possible, hoping to “get a hit.” That is one strategy, and sometimes it is appropriate. Making small modifications to a standard proposal is efficient, particularly when seeking to secure sponsorships and smaller grants. In general, we suggest a more targeted approach.

Here are three things to consider:

  1. What percentage of your revenue do you project will come from foundations or corporations? We recommend building diverse revenue streams. This is important for long term reasons such as having other revenue streams should foundation/corporation giving contract. A shorter term reason to diversify your revenue is that it signals financial health to foundations who are reviewing your proposal.
  2. What percentage of your operating or program budget are you requesting from a specific foundation? Looking to one funder for the majority of your funding sends a red flag to many funders. They have responsibilities they have to consider: one of those is what will happen to your organization or program if they need to reduce or eliminate their support. Does your proposal include a discussion of who you will be approaching for additional funds? Are these realistic potential funders, or foundations you would like to approach but don’t yet know if they will consider your request? This information helps a program officer evaluate your proposal and your ability to deliver on some or all of the deliverables. When developing your project or organizational budget be prepared to answer the question “what if you don’t secure all the funds that you need?”
  3. Is your nonprofit a strong match with the priorities of the foundation you are writing to? For example, if a foundation seeks to reduce poverty in a specific area, it looks to fund nonprofits with a track record of work in that area, that have accountable and effective leadership, and strong community relationships. This is in addition to effective programming and a proposed evaluation method.

These are the business decisions that should be made in advance of submitting a funding request and communicated through your proposal. This is the work of the board and executive leadership, and not the work of fundraising staff and volunteers. It is work that supports fundraising success and that takes time.

Looking for foundation support – “we’ll get a grant” – as a cure all for revenue shortfalls is not a fundraising strategy.

Fundraising is competitive, and as a nonprofit leader it is your responsibility to understand the funding landscape and to proactively address the serious questions that funders will ask.

Related Posts:

  1. The role of the business plan: An interview with Jan Young
  2. Business planning for nonprofits: Learn the basics
  3. Benefits of using a business plan:
  4. Ten things you need to know about proposal writing
  5. Cultivating foundations
  6. Six things you should know before writing a proposal –

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Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Six things you should know before writing a proposal

 Writing ProposalsSummer reading is highlighted in Oprah and other magazines each year. A good read is great to enjoy on the beach or curled up on a lawn chair. But what about a good summer write? That’s right –start writing now to help the money come in at the end of the year, or perhaps next spring. That’s how it’s done. Writing proposals now prevents future complaints such as “how can I write that proposal in just three days?” It’s called planning ahead.

Here are six things you should know before writing a proposal.

  1. What type of funding are you seeking? Do you want a grant for a specific program, general operating support, equipment purchases, an advocacy campaign, or for a building (capital project)? Most organizations are looking for funds for multiple projects at the same time. For example, unrestricted or general operating funds are most coveted as they provide an organization with the greatest flexibility. But many foundations now seek to focus their giving more narrowly, and while they may want to support your afterschool health program, they may not be willing to fund outreach that helps ensure you reach the target group of children you want to engage.
  2. How much money do you need to raise in total? How much do you expect to raise from foundations? Corporations? Government sources? Individual donors? Many funders want to see a diversity of projected revenue and they look for it in your proposed budget.
  3. What is your projected impact? What will be different if your organization secures the funds it is seeking? Be specific.
  4. What types of written materials do you have that can help inform the proposal writing process? Ideally you have a case for support that you can draw from. If not, you will need access to your mission statement, vision statement, organizational description, program description, projected evaluation method, impact and – again – budget.
  5. Where could the money come from? You can begin your funding research using The Foundation Center’s online resources ( ). You can pay a small fee for access from your computer, or you may be able to use the database at your library as many libraries subscribe providing you with free access. When you identify a potential funder, review their guidelines closely before you begin writing. Make sure that your project and organization meet the funder’s requirements.
  6. Review the required attachments. Make a list of what you will need to provide. This often includes your 501c3 letter, audited financials, an organizational budget, a project budget, board list with affiliations, and sometimes a list of other projected funders for the project. The attachments alone can launch a mini-crisis if you try to pull these together two hours before the proposal is due.

Start now, and reduce future stress.

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Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Nonprofits: Annual Meetings are Important

SaadandShaw, nonprofits, annual meetingsHow does your nonprofit report on its work? How do you share your vision, work and impact? Do you send an email? Create an annual report? What about an annual meeting that brings together your stakeholders? Are you up to it? Can you make the time? Our perspective: how can you not afford the time?

The work of your nonprofit is at the core of all you do. Ideally, your work is driven by your vision. And, ideally your board takes the time – periodically – to reflect on your vision. Does it need to be adjusted? Do programs need to be eliminated, modified, or introduced so you can best live into your vision in a changing environment? Do you need to modify your strategies, partnerships, or the very way you are organized?

These are a few of the important questions for a board to grapple with. The process is important, and so is the process of reporting out to your constituents. Who exactly are these “constituents?” They’re the people you serve, your donors, funders, vendors, staff, fellow board members, faith leaders, elected officials, government workers, community leaders, teachers, neighbors, and leaders of local businesses and major corporations. They are as diverse as the community you live in.

With a continuous focus on the people we serve and advocate for, it is understandable that taking the time to create community “report outs” and listening forums may not always be a number one priority. But it’s critical.

You have to share your vision, direction, impact and thinking with those who support you and those who work alongside you in an effort to create a better world, or a least a healthier community. Some organizations will create an annual report – print, electronic or both. Others share updates regularly via email, Facebook, or their website.

Here’s our suggestion: consider hosting an annual meeting. We recently attended the annual meeting of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM) and were impressed. The board of directors took the time to craft a concise agenda that shared their vision and current work with their stakeholders. What was so refreshing was that board members made the majority of presentations. They opened the meeting, the clearly and concisely communicated their vision for the next five years. They named it Vision 2020 and they shared their history, vision and process of collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders.

These were live people talking to live people, sharing their collaborations in a clear, concise and compelling way: WFGM seeks to reduce poverty in a specific zipcode by 1% a year for the next five years. Board members spoke to an audience of neighbors and community stakeholders about a major undertaking and invited their support. Take the time to share your vision – you’re worth it.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Customer service-Is this a nonprofit priority?

How do you measure customer service? Can a nonprofit organization, college or university use the same processes that a retail business would use?

 Nonprofits are increasingly asked to focus on the people they serve. This is not news. So many employees, volunteers, board members and executives at nonprofits are all about the people they serve. They are passionate, compassionate, committed, and resourceful.

But how do people who are “served” actually feel about the “service” they receive? That’s something that donors and funders often want to know. “Customer service” is also critical to management and board leadership: they want to know how well the organization is delivering on its mission and vision, and where improvements are needed.

And, let’s be clear – customer service is of critical importance to people who are “served” by nonprofits. Many times organizations do the best they can with the resources available to them. But what if that’s not good enough? And who decides?

To learn more we talked with Lewis Rambo, PhD. “Typical customer service propositions for firms like Target, Walmart, Macy’s, Amazon, and countless other “brick and mortar,” and Internet-based merchandisers are fairly straightforward. But many nonprofits – including colleges and universities – have missions that are complex and often underfunded.” That’s how he began our conversation. Rambo should know, his experience includes years of helping organizations with the challenges of reframing their visions and changing their cultures.

“Higher education – for example – is increasingly asked to improve its customer service. However, a college or university is not a retail outlet. Because of this it is important that higher education host strategic conversations among their many stakeholders in order to arrive at a common understanding of exactly what “customer service” really means for students, administrators, faculty, staff, parents, and the countless other members of the broader community of stakeholders who have both realistic and unrealistic expectations of the institution.”

He continued, with this example, “The missions of educational institutions are often dauntingly complex. They often pit admission requirements, mandated programs of study, required courses, examinations, and the legally determined responsibility as ‘In loco parentis,’ to name just a few; against launching a set of ‘one size fits all’ initiatives to try to ‘super please’ its many different ‘customers.’”

Rambo encourages institutions to “discuss the undiscussable.” That means encouraging the many constituents of an organization to express their ideas, concerns, fears, biases, and experiences prior to launching a customer service program. This can help the process of defining customer service benchmarks. Without this you may end up measuring the “wrong” benchmarks, or trying to satisfy a constituency whose satisfaction can only be measured in the long term. Our perspective: engage your constituents. Take the time to create a process that will work. It can be challenging, but it’s worth it.

Learn more at

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Giving USA: Who supports nonprofits

Giving USAThe numbers are in: Americans gave an estimated $358.38 billion to charity in 2014. That’s 7.1 percent over 2013, and the fifth year in a row that giving increased. Individuals – that’s you and me – continue to give an estimated 90% of all gifts. Here’s how it breaks out: individual gifts represented $258.51 billion (72% of the total). That’s you – your tithes and offerings at church, your online gifts, support for walkathons, the checks you write, stocks you transfer – every $25 gift and every $2.5 million gift. We also gave $28.13 billion through bequests – the money left to charities in your family members’ wills. Finally, those with the ability to give to foundations gave another $41.62 billion.

Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014 breaks down last year’s giving and the numbers are amazing. In 2014 the amount given to charity was the highest total in the 60 years that the report has been produced. Researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the report is published by Giving USA Foundation.

Here are a few more details: Foundation giving totaled $53.97 billion, (8.2 percent higher than 20130 and  corporate giving was $17.77 billion (up 13.7 percent from 2013).  There were some large gifts – individual gifts ranging from $200 million to one of almost $2 billion given by technology entrepreneurs.

Where did the money go? Most went to religion ($114.90 billion), then education ($54.62 billion), human Services ($42.10 billion) , health ($30.37 billion), arts/culture/humanities ($17.23 billion),  environment/animals ($10.50 billion),  public-society benefit ($26.29 billion), foundations ($41.62 billion) and international affairs($15.10 billion).

Giving to human services continued to increase as did giving to education. Individuals increased their support of giving to civic and civil rights organizations, and to community and economic development.

Those who read this column regularly know how much we stress the case for support. Here’s how W. Keith Curtis, chair of the Giving USA Foundation ties the case to increased giving: “The growth can be attributed, in part, to the ways charities have been working smarter during daunting times. Nonprofits increasingly are making sure they have strong cases for support, communicate frequently with donors and provide proof of the impact charitable gifts make.”

Related to this, the report notes that donors are “more and more” interested in knowing the strategies nonprofits use and the impact their dollars make. Nonprofits are being asked “more and more” to be accountable for what they do with donations. The good news: many organizations are collecting more data and becoming more transparent.

Here’s what we know: your gift makes a difference. Together our gifts change lives and communities. The nonprofits we support require our support. Let’s keep giving.

More information at

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.