RAISE 2019 Is Over. These Takeaways Will Keep Us Thinking.

Well. That was a wild few days. There was dancing. There was singing. There was a drum solo.

And there were a ton of incredible speakers giving us a lot of ideas to take back to the office and work on next week and beyond.

With RAISE 2019 in the books we wanted to quickly get down some of our major takeaways before we sleep all weekend.

That’s right, we plan to sleep for the entire weekend. Throwing a conference is grueling work.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for even more RAISE follow up. We’ll post full videos of the presentations, slide decks from our speakers and some in-depth breakdowns on many of the topics.

Innovate Already

How much has really changed in fundraising in the last 30 years? If we’re being honest with ourselves, not a whole lot. The world surrounding it, though, is almost unrecognizable. And unless people are going to give up their iPhones and Instagram accounts tomorrow (seems unlikely), we better get with the times and start coming up with some modern approaches to today’s modern problems. Which leads us directly to…

Fail Forward

Test. Don’t debate doing it. Don’t form a committee. Don’t have a meeting to talk about the meeting you’ll have next week. Just do it.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. As we learned from Michael Oxton of Night Shift Brewing, a failure doesn’t mean you failed. They’ve gone from zero to 200 employees in just seven years thanks to a culture that’s accepting of trying things and being OK if they don’t work out.

Pipeline, Pipeline, Pipeline

If you don’t know about it, you can’t close it. Them’s the rules. We don’t write ‘em, we just learn about ‘em from Pat Griffin of Catalant and then follow ‘em. If you’re not focusing a lot of effort on building a robust and varied pipeline, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. And not the good kind that we talked about earlier. Turns out not all failure is created equal. Make sure your pipeline is taken care of, and those gifts that fall through or go dark won’t sting nearly as much.

Meet People Where They Are

This one goes in two directions. First, find out where your donors spend their time, then start spending your time there. One donor might big an email super user. Another might be an Instagram addict. Stop wasting your effort and brainpower trying to serve them Facebook ads. Everyone involved will be happier.

Second, discover what they want to accomplish with their gift. Donors, you may be shocked to learn, do not care if you hit your campaign goal. That billion-dollar mark you’re striving for is basically unfathomable to them. But if you get super specific about a solvable problem that their $100 can quantifiably contribute to, they’ll feel like they’re actually making a difference instead of helping you stack mountains of cash in Fort Knox.

Create an Unforgettable Experience

It makes a difference. That uniqueness is what makes people lose their minds over LovePop’s $13 greeting cards. And it can be why people become ecstatic about giving to your institution. It requires a little creativity, but as we learned from Wistia, it’s actually easier to be creative with a tight budget. Plus, if you’re just trying something without committing spending a lot of money, it removes much of the stress and anxiety that come with needing it to work.


Just do it. Because this note, frankly, sucks.


Ask People What They Want

Yes, it really IS that simple. People like getting what they want. So much so that they’ll tell you all about the specifics in painstaking detail with the anticipation that you’ll deliver it to them. Carve out some time to listen to your donors’ needs, desires and wishes…then fulfill them. Your closing rate will skyrocket.


Because we do our best work together. This one came up over and over and over and over (you get it) during RAISE. The team at University of Iowa found partners across the university and have strengthened those relationships and processes over the course of multiple projects. Every department of the Kansas State University Foundation came together to completely reinvent the way they approach pretty much everything and they’re getting incredible results because of it. Notre Dame’s recommitment to partnering with volunteers has had an enormous impact on their relationships with donors. You can’t go it alone, and if you do, you won’t get very far. So, whether it’s across campus or across the hall, find partners and get to work.

And we’ll leave you with this. Because this is why we all do what we do.

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