From idiot to trusted friend in 13 sentences.

Recently our team was working with a client that had some issues with their database and accuracy of their records.

Sound familiar?

There were a group of contacts that only had business information and addresses, but no contact name information.  Many of these donors had given 5 and even 6 figure gifts.

Together, we decided that waiting until the data was perfect or avoiding a solicitation of these donors was not an acceptable solution.  We put our heads together and came up with an idea:

Why not just be up front about the deficiencies in the records and ask donors to help us fix it?

This is the kind of stuff that people love to help with.

So, together we wrote a very simple, direct and honest letter that explained that we were rather embarrassed to be missing key information about such a loyal and generous donor.  Next, we asked the donor to share 3 pieces of information (name, phone number and email) at the bottom of the page and pop it in the postage paid return envelope along with their kind gift.

The client printed the letter themselves, along with the simple update form, all on a single sheet of letterhead (at a cost of less than a penny per note) and added it into the unsealed packages we had returned after processing at the mailhouse.

Easy, inexpensive and personal.

I almost wish we had more records with missing information, so we could make more use of this highly engaging approach.

I know we worry about looking unprofessional or *gurk* incompetent in front of donors.  But the reality is these kinds of errors exist and most people understand, especially if you are upfront and honest about it.

Try this approach next time you run into a mistake.  I guarantee this is one donor engagement idea that will make Mom proud!

A warm welcome to our newest client.

It’s a real honour to add the MS Society of Canada, Saskatchewan Division to the Fundraising Pharmacy client family.

I started my professional fundraising career with the MS Society. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t use something I learned about fundraising from the wonderful people there.

It’s always been fascinating to me that Saskatchewan is a high-risk area for multiple sclerosis.  Luckily, the thousands of people in Saskatchewan who have this often devastating disease (as well as their family and loved ones), can turn to the MS Society when they need help.

Through donor support, the MS Society of Canada’s work in the province delivers needed support and services for the 3,500 individuals with MS helping ensure that they and their families don’t have to face this unpredictable, often disabling central nervous system disease alone.  And the research that donors fund provides hope as well as real progress in treatment of the disease and toward the goal to End MS.

Welcome, and our entire FRx team is thrilled to join in the effort to endMS!

Happy Anniversary!

Exactly one year ago today, Fundraising Pharmacy was born (on the road) in a Gastown, Vancouver loft.  With two old laptops, a lot of coffee and an idea, we created Canada’s only affordable and effective dispensary for Annual Giving and Legacy Marketing advice and services.

Thanks to our amazing clients, generous network, and the hardest working team in fundraising consulting, Fundraising Pharmacy has become a leader in creating passionate donor support for smart charities across the country.

I’m super excited to show off our new logo and brand colours, officially launching right now!  Have a look and tell me which one is your favourite…


Over the coming weeks, we’ll be taking some time to do a springtime refresh, with an improved website and more design fun.  So just like a lot of drug stores, we’re taking some time to focus on beauty.

But gettin’ pretty will not make us lose focus on healthy client fundraising programs.  We promise.  You can trust us to continue delivering name-brand direct and legacy marketing services, program support and advice at generic prices.

Call or email me any time to give us a piece of your mind, a compliment or some business.

Happy Anniversary!


647-607-DAVE (3283)


Online fundraising in December (from scratch) in 15 minutes?

Who has time to implement an online fundraising strategy in December?

You do!

And, yeah, this December!  As in 2012.

I promise you, you can do it in 15 minutes.  You can get started right after you finish reading this.  And you can thank me in January.

First, take 3 minutes and write a short and sweet thank you email to a donor for being a donor.  Tell them how awesome they are, thank them for their gifts, and tell them how those gifts have helped, even if it that last sentence is pretty general.  There you go.  3 sentences, 3 minutes.  Now, take 2 minutes and do a simple query in your database (or get your administrator to help you) and create a list of all your current donors with an email address (that you have permission to email).  Send them this email this week.  Thursday, before 10 a.m. is a great time.

Now next Monday, that’s the 17th of December, take 4 more minutes and write a quick email to let your favourite donor from 2011 know that you haven’t heard from them yet this year.  Remind them the year is almost over and that your organization really needs their gift to continue doing the great work you do (one simple example of the great work you do should make it in this email).  Ask them to click a link to make their gift right now.  Thank them for their caring and loyalty.  Take another 3 minutes to prepare a data file that includes every donor with an email address (and permission to email) who has not made a gift in 2012.   Use this email you just wrote to your favourite 2011 donor and get ready to send it to the larger file on the 27th of December.

Then on Friday, 21 December, take 1 minute to write a very short email reminding your second favourite donor from 2011 that they only have one more chance to help your charity this year.  Make sure that email has a link to your giving page.  It should also mention that have done your do your best to make sure your records are as up-to-date as possible, but there is a possibility their very recent gift and this email may have crossed paths.  Thank them very much for responding faster than you could update your records!  Then on the 31st of December take 2 minutes to build an updated list of everyone on your file (again, with permission to email) who has not given in 2012.  Send this last email out on 31 December at 10 a.m.

In early January, you’ll want to set aside 4 more minutes to count all the additional gifts you received online over the last week of 2012, including at least 2 minutes to pat yourself on the back (or for self-high-fiving) for reactivating donors that would have otherwise have lapsed in 2012!

And if you can spare a final minute, please send me a note in the new year to tell me how you did!


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A Stewardship Booster Shot

You’re working hard on your Thanksgiving and Holiday solicitations, right?

Perfect!  After all, you are about to head into the busiest fundraising season for virtually every charity in Canada.  And this is the best time to bring in money for your organization through the mail, phone, online and with personal asks.

But hang on for just a second.

I want you to promise me one thing… You see, in such a whirlwind season, a normally healthy donor relationship can start to feel unwell.

So, promise me you will take the time to get a stewardship booster shot!

Here are three quick, affordable and easy ways you can make sure you inoculate your fundraising program against donor fatigue and burnout.

  1.  Send a donor newsletter in the fall. – it’s not too late.  Aim to drop it in mid-October, in between your Thanksgiving appeal and your holiday solicitation.  A short simple, single sheet of 8.5×11 with 2 to 3 short articles and a few pictures will do the trick.  Pop it in the mail, take it on a visit, send it by email.  Make sure your donor has a quick update on what’s going on at your organization and tell them how their gifts are making that work possible.
  2. Polish up your thank you letter.  Write a fresh and personal thank you for all the gifts you receive in the fall.   Make sure your donors feel well-thanked before heading into an intense solicitation cycle.  Your well-crafted and sincere thank you will make you stand out in the crowded holiday asking season
  3. Send a “We Love You” email in early December.  Have your Executive Director/CEO (or another respected leader at your charity) send a warm email at the beginning of December.  It should be very short, with a simple message thanking the donor for their generosity throughout 2012.  It should gush a little (but make sure it is genuine) but still be short. No ask, just love.

No matter how you do it, please set aside some time to find opportunities to inject stewardship into your busy schedule.

It’s a good way to keep your donor relationships healthy.  And healthy donor relationships always mean you could have the holiday best fundraising season ever!


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Top 4 Legacy Marketing Myths

WARNING: These myths may impair your charitable bequest potential

Have you concluded that Legacy Marketing just can’t work for your charity?

There are a lot of reasons why so many smart and good-looking fundraising professionals come to this conclusion.

That’s why I created this quick checklist of Legacy Marketing myths.  I want to make sure you don’t miss out on a great opportunity for your organization and your donors.

1. Only the ‘Big Guys’ get bequests.  We hear a lot about big-city research hospitals, prestigious universities, national health charities and ‘blue-chip’ arts organizations receiving bequests.  But charities of all sizes and without name-brand recognition are successfully communicating with their donors about making bequest gifts.  The key is to start respectfully speaking about it with your donors.  And I guarantee they are already on someone else’s list for this very important conversation!

2. My charity’s donors aren’t rich, so it’s just not worth it.  The average charitable bequest gift in Canada is now around $30,000.  This amount is typical for a donor of modest means.  And many donors who leave this size of gift have never made a single gift larger than $25 or $30 during their lifetime.  Can you imagine the transformative good that could be accomplished if two or three dozen of your average donors decided to include your charity in their Will?

3. Donors will only make bequests if I meet with them in person.  Many of us learned early on in our fundraising careers that Planned Giving equals tea and banana bread with little old ladies.  This isn’t really fair to little old ladies, Planned Giving professionals or banana bread.  Also, it’s really not very effective for maximizing the number of charitable bequests for your organization.  First, there are simply too many people willing to name your charity in their Will to ever have enough time to meet with all of them.  Second, most donors who leave gifts in their Will prefer NOT to have you sitting in their living room while they make estate plans.

4. Legacy Marketing has to cost a lot to be effective.  There are legacy marketing programs that can cost tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But this does not mean they are effective, even for big charities with lots of resources.  What’s most important is to make a plan, build a strategy that will fit your budget and start the conversation with your charity’s donors.  A smart place to begin is examining opportunities to include bequest giving information in your current print materials and online content.

I hope you’ve decided to have another look at this terrific way to significantly increase your fundraising revenues.  There are some great resources available to help you create a sharp Legacy Marketing strategy – many, are low or even no, cost!  You can contact me directly for some free advice on where to begin.


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Add this Supplement for a Healthy Fundraising Diet

Are you maximizing your holiday fundraising potential?

Almost every single fundraiser breaks out an extra strength campaign for the November and December holiday season.  And for good reason.  Many of the top charities receive 30% or more of their annual revenue in December.

But this is not a post about that holiday period.

I want to talk about Thanksgiving.



It’s our work summed up in 2 words.  A more perfect holiday for our sector just doesn’t exist.  In fact, if we didn’t already have it, fundraisers would have to invent it.

Can you imagine a better time to send an ask to your donors?  If you already are, then you are awesome and class dismissed.

But, if you’re like the legions of charities in Canada not capitalizing on this wonderful opportunity then I’d strongly recommend adding an early fall campaign related to Thanksgiving.  Here in Canada that means having something (mail, email, or both) arriving in people’s homes in early October.

Here’s an easy-to-swallow prescription to get started:

Step 1 – Evoke a Feeling of Gratitude:  Most people feel strong emotions when they pause to think about their good fortune.  I know this stirs some pretty intense feelings in my own mind.

Step 2 – Link Gratitude to Philanthropy:  Help your donors string together the gratitude they feel for their relative abundance and the thought that many people are not as fortunate with an example tied directly your cause/organization/work.  This is a powerful frame of mind to create for donors.  Personally, I know how downright emotional I can get in these moments.

Step 3 – Ask :  You’ve set the stage, so make sure you ask.  Connect the solicitation directly with the work your organization does.  Show your donors how they can really help someone, or solve a problem by giving a gift in thanks.

Bonus StepFrame the Ask:  Create what Direct Marketing consultants like to call ‘dollar handles’.  Frame your ask amounts around some traditional Thanksgiving costs – eg: typical price of a turkey,  a fancy dessert, a special bottle of wine, or even the cost of fleeing town to avoid an unpleasant family member (just a completely random inclusion, I swear.)

Adding another solicitation campaign to your fundraising program is not always a simple process, I know.  But this just makes so much sense.  I promise it will be worth it.

And if you get started today, you’ll have just enough time to be successful.

Who knows…after you see the results you may even want to add Fundraising Pharmacy to your thank-you list for next fall!

If you’d like some help getting your Thanksgiving campaign off to a healthy start, click here to contact me right now.

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5 Step Formula to Meaningful Thank You Letters

A few days ago I actually typed these words in an email to a former colleague:

“I get downright preachy about effective thank you letters.”

Hmmm…upon reflection, I realized there were a couple of serious issues with this:

·        I was pitching a luncheon presentation and ‘preachy’ is probably not a great descriptive for a positive and entertaining learning experience.

·        It’s been a long time since I wrote a rant about Thank You letters.

OK…so I can’t do much about the first point.  But I can pull out my soapbox and get back on it…

Here’s a Fundraising Pharmacy formula for effective thank you letters:

1.    Choose a great signatory – The best signatory may not be the Board Chair or President.  It may even be you!  The signatory should convey their passion for the work that your charity does and be able to speak about how the donor’s gift will impact that work.  And this letter must only be signed by one person (no co-signing or generic signatures like ‘the Board’).

2.    Write it how you  would say it – It always amazes me that people who are so warm and genuine in person feel the need to be formal and stiff in their writing.  I find it very helpful to imagine I was meeting the donor at an event and then jot down what I would say to them face-to-face.  It always surprises me how much material this gets me!

3.    Keep it personal – Throw in a micro-anecdote to draw your donor into the world of the signatory.  Did the person signing the thank you letter just walk past a room where program staff are busy helping people?  Maybe they walk past a photo of the founder every day?  Build a thank you around that experience and their feelings.

4.    Don’t wait for the Annual Report – The number one thing donors want from you is to know how their gifts make a difference.  So, make sure you update them in the thank you letter. You just have to find a success you can report that relates to the campaign/appeal the donor gave to.  EG:  the equipment you raised funds for has been purchased and will arrive in a few weeks; you are set to begin renovations to the program space that needed improvements.

5.    Give them your digits – If you want to see this donor again, you are going to have to give them your phone number.  Email, too.  Don’t try to shuffle them off to the switchboard, general reception line or info@ email address.  Give them the signatory’s direct line and actual email address.  Invite them to call anytime for any reason.  If your signatory is not comfortable with this, choose another signatory.  A few donors may call, but it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll receive more than a few calls over the course of a year.  But extending the invitation will help build trust.

Here’s your chance to seize the opportunity to transform an obligatory task into a powerful and personal connection with your donors!  And this formula should get you well on your way to healthier donor relationships.


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5 Ideas to Save Your Next Event

This morning, I was scrolling through my twitter account and was a bit taken aback when I saw a couple of tweets pointing to a blog posting entitled “Why You Should Ditch Your Next Event” that Gail Perry wrote a while back.  I hadn’t read the posting when Ms. Perry first wrote it late last spring, but this time around, it got me fired up all right.  But not in the usual good way.

First, I should say that I have enormous respect for Gail Perry (and I’m a bit more than a little nervous even typing her name!).  I follow her religiously on twitter, subscribe to her excellent Fired Up Fundraising Newsletter (just got another great tip as I was writing this post) and regularly attend her sessions at conferences.

I’m a big fan.

But I’m an even bigger fan of Special Event Fundraising.  Like a lot of people, it’s where I started my fundraising career.  It has a big place in my heart.   And frankly, I get a bit defensive when people starting talking smack about it.

In fact this is not the first time I’ve been set off by someone writing a piece urging people to reconsider special events.  I wrote this piece about a decade ago: Special Events – Good Times, Great Fundraisers.

Is this just an unhealthy pattern? Perhaps.  Will I stop?  Unlikely.

As you can see, I spoke a lot about mass participation events and how they can stand proudly beside their Annual Giving, Major Gifts and Planned Gift cousins in a spreadsheet.  I still firmly believe this.

But since 2003, I have also experienced many more special events like the ones I somewhat glibly referred to as Gala Dinner Silent Auction.    I’ve been to a lot of terrible events – bad food, tarted-up-yet-still-lacklustre venues and uninspired themes sometimes in direct opposition to the mission – all with brutally high cost ratios.

I have also been to some amazing events and have eagerly listened to sharp fundraisers telling me stories of successful (and highly efficient) fundraising events.

What I’ve learned is that done wrong, special events will do exactly what Gail Perry predicts – “kill your staff and volunteers” while setting your ROI on embarrass mode.  But done right, they can be energizing and raise money at a reasonable cost.

So, how do you do them right?  Here are 5 ideas I hope you’ll try, before you decide to ditch you next event:

  1. Invite the right people.  Make sure you have a healthy mix of donors at your event.  Special events are great opportunities to cultivate and steward major gift donors.  Then can be a great way to recognize bequest donors.  And they can be an excellent time to inspire loyal annual giving donors to increase their giving level or make a stretch gift.
  2. Make your mission the shining star.  Even if you have a ‘celebrity’ hosting or appearing your event, make sure that it’s your mission that is the biggest star.  Have the people your charity serves playing key roles at the event by delivering a passionate speech, thanking people for coming at the door or handwriting personal welcome notes to use as place cards.
  3. Remind people why they are there.  Set a goal for the evening and let your attendees know.  Give them updates throughout the night, thanking them often along the way.  Don’t be shy on incentivizing it for them.  Are you hosting a sit-down dinner with a long program?  Try cutting one speech for every fundraising milestone achieved.
  4. Show your work.  Get your event attendees excited by showing them the work you will accomplish with the funds raised that night.  Is it for a piece of hospital equipment?  Have the doctor who will be using it give a short presentation about what it will do and the impact it will have on an individual patient.  Will the money help build a school in a developing nation?  Set up a classroom with all the items you will provide.
  5. Do something awesome.  This is the hard one, but you’re smart and creative.  One of my favourite ideas is a stroke of genius a former colleague of mine had while she was working for a big-city hospital foundation. She did a live auction of naming rights for hospital rooms at their gala dinner!  It raised a lot of money and it really got mid-level and major donors excited about making their gifts.

So, please give it another go.  It is possible to raise more money, control costs and create a brilliant and memorable event.

Good luck and send me a note to tell me what you did to make it awesome!

Healthy Donor Relationships begin at Fundraising Pharmacy

The Fundraising Pharmacy is now open.

I’m so pleased to be able to offer prescriptions for great donor relationships directly to my charity clients.

Please contact me directly if you are experiencing any fundraising ills.

Your Chief Advice Dispenser,

David Kravinchuk