Conferences Donor Participation Project

Live Q&A with Jim Langley (2/10/21)

In this Donor Participation Project session, we’re honored to welcome Jim Langley, President of Langley Innovations, for a Live Q&A session.

James Langley is the President of Langley Innovations, a strategic consulting and training firm, which he founded to help institutions advance a philanthropic revolution. Over his career, James has worked with institutions across the country at different levels to help raise over $3 billion.

The Donor Participation Project (DPP) convenes fundraising professionals who are concerned about the nationwide decline in donor participation (20 million US households lost between 2000-2016). 

We believe this can be solved by changing our fundraising practices and want to learn from peers who are moving the participation needle.

Discuss this Topic with Jim Langley and Ask Questions During our February 10 Live Q&A

  • Please bring 2/3 questions prepared.
  • This event will take place over Zoom.
  • The session will be recorded and accessible post-event for DPP members only.

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    Conferences Donor Participation Project

    DPP Happy Hour

    Donor Participation Project participants got together on January 13, 2021 to share their experiences so far in their fiscal year.

    Learn more about the Donor Participation Project.


    Ask the Pros: #GivingTuesday social media tips?

    “We want to get more out of our Facebook and Instagram fundraising efforts for #GivingTuesday. Any tactical tips for standing out in those channels?”

    – Head of marketing / comms at a medium-sized Museum in the Northeast

    Louis Diez, Principal at

    Fundraising on Facebook/Instagram has fantastic potential but also a couple of issues that you and your development shop will need to look into. For some of them, you may need more time than between now (end of November) and Giving Tuesday. 

    The ideal way to go about it (which Facebook also prefers) is to set up an in-app fundraiser. Check out the instructions here. This lets people donate to your museum directly inside of Facebook. Facebook has insanely high engagement and people make donations through this medium. In addition, the platform prefers that you keep people inside of their ecosystem so the algorithm prioritizes these posts over posts that, for example, link people out to your giving form on your website. 

    Another benefit? Facebook covers the processing fees. 

    However, these are the issues I’ve come across in attempting to get set up to accept donations from Facebook fundraisers:  

    • Your page needs to be set up as a nonprofit. Among other requirements, someone from your organization (CEO/CFO) will have to provide their date of birth and social security number. 
    • There are different ways to receive the payments (read about them here). The only one that really works for a professional development operation is to accept Facebook Payments. You need to be able to identify, acknowledge, and build relationships with the people that give to you through Facebook.  

    In addition, here are some ideas that I’ve used successfully to fundraise through social media: 

    • Set up an email listserv/chat group (GroupMe/WhatsApp/Google Chat) of Social Media Amplifiers. This is a group of volunteers that is committed to supporting your posts on social by commenting/liking/tagging others during the big day. Throughout the day, staff or volunteers can go into this group and post the links of posts that the volunteers should engage with. 
    • Focus on engagement. Prioritize content that asks questions, gets people to tag each other, or is in video form (i.e. do several Facebook Live broadcasts with live fundraising updates). Also, be aware that Facebook Groups tend to have much higher engagement than Facebook Pages. I.e. create a closed group for museum donors. 
    • Do not always link out to your giving page. Posts that link out of the platform tend to not do as well.
    • Do come up with a hashtag for your Giving Tuesday effort.
    • Post much more content than you think is necessary. Further advice on this topic from Gary V here. There is no such thing as content fatigue on social media.
    • If your website has significant traffic, you could benefit from remarketing on Facebook. Also, if you have a sizable email list you can create a custom audience to advertise to. Stay away from Boosts, they are easy to do (and spend $$ on) but seldom have great fundraising results.
    • Finally, consider that email results–especially among your loyal donors–will still be much higher. You simply do not have enough control over who Facebook chooses to show your content to. 

    Originally posted at:

    Case Study Donor Participation Project

    W&M’s Successful Donor Participation Strategy

    Video only available to Donor Participation Project members, send me an email at to join.

    Matthew Lambert, CEO, William & Mary Foundation, and Dan Frezza,  Associate Vice President for Strategic Operations & Annual Giving guided a Donor Participation Project session on the details of their successful alumni giving participation strategy during their last campaign.

    Some interesting takeaways were:

    • Every donor interaction mentioned the three campaign goals of increasing alumni engagement, increasing alumni giving participation, and reaching the campaign’s dollar goal.
    • They exploded their alumni engagement from about 10,000 touchpoints with alumni per year at the start of the campaign to over 30,000 by the last year of the campaign.
    • They grew their Class Ambassadors program from 200 to over 800 volunteers.
    • Their Giving Day also grew exponentially, and they viewed it as both an engagement and giving participation opportunity.
    • Leadership (President, Board, VP Advancement) must make participation a priority.
    • It is not a matter of either raising given dollar amounts OR achieving a participation goal, it has to be seen as giving AND participation.
    • Success requires a broad-based focus, across campus.
    • Diversification of the donor base is key (i.e. women in philanthropy, underrepresented populations).
    • The main indicators of giving habits are: giving history, consistency, frequency, and gift amount.
    • You must choose one among these three high-level goals: Retention, Reactivation, Acquisition. It will most likely be Retention.
    • With Reactivation, time is not on your side. After 5 years, donors are as likely to come back as a non-donor.
    • In the Acquisition bucket, newly graduated students were an important source of growth.
    • Key drivers of their success were: increased retention (year over year giving), increased gift frequency (within a year), stewardship of good behavior (i.e. consecutive giving society).

    Learn more about the Donor Participation Project and sign up here.

    Donor Participation Project Resources

    Monthly Giving: All or Nothing

    Nicole Stern, membership director at WDSE WRPT Public Television joined the Donor Participation Project to share her knowledge of monthly giving fundraising.

    Monthly Giving with Nicole Stern, membership director at WDSE WRPT Public Television

    What is monthly giving?

    Monthly giving, also called sustainer giving or recurring giving, consists of setting up an automatically renewing monthly gift to a nonprofit. It is the equivalent of a subscription.

    What are the benefits of monthly giving for nonprofits?

    Monthly donors have both a higher retention rate as well as a higher lifetime value. Over time, these two facts compound to create important positive effects on the revenue available to fulfill your mission as well as your donor engagement efforts.

    How can I start a monthly giving program?

    You must embrace monthly giving as a new of doing business for your annual fund.

    Simply adding a checkbox under an existing online form is not enough. You must make it clear in all your outreach efforts (digital, mail, phone) that monthly giving is the default and best way to make a gift to your organization.

    Won’t monthly giving preclude me from requesting higher gifts from loyal donors?

    On the contrary, monthly donors are especially receptive to upgrade asks as well as to planned giving conversations. An established monthly giving program also frees up resources that you can invest in improved stewardship and more donor engagement.

    How hard is it to start a monthly giving program?

    These are the areas you need to pay attention to if you want to start a monthly giving program:

    • Executive buy-in. Use the data in the presentation above to make your case. A full re-orientation of your annual fund to monthly giving will require changes in all your operations and in your cash flow.
    • Gift processing. Monthly gifts turn one gift processing transaction into twelve. Fields may need to be added to code the gifts. For example, storing the credit card expiration date in your CRM can help you get ahead of credit card renewals.
    • Digital communications. Your main gift form will need to make it clear that monthly giving is the default and most convenient way to give.
    • Branding the program. Many organizations give a name to their monthly giving program (Sustainer Circle, Evergreen, etc.) to make it clear that this is something special.

    Donor Participation Project

    10/14/20 Lunch Analysis: Sustainer Giving, All or Nothing

    As part of the Donor Participation Project, this Lunch Analysis session will be guided by Nicole Stern, Membership Director at WDSE WRPT Public Television.

    Recurring (sustainer) giving has numerous advantages for your organization including predictable long-term revenue, increased donor loyalty, higher donor retention and lifetime value, and incredible upgrade potential. We’ll explore how to prepare your fundraising shop to implement a sustainer program, how to create and execute fundraising strategies to take advantage of this transformational way of giving, and how to avoid any potential pitfalls.

    Nicole was featured in an article on sustainer giving in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which is included in the Required Preparation section below.

    Brainstorm and Discuss this Topic With Peers During our October 14 Lunch Analysis

    Lunch Analysis is a 45-minute meeting that is a part study group, part scholarly discussion, part brainstorming session, and part support group. Participation is open to all who fundraise or have fundraised at a nonprofit.

    Each Lunch Analysis covers a specific topic in donor participation and has required preparation and discussion. This one will be on October 14, 2020 at noon EST.

    Required Preparation

    Read the following three articles:

    Explore the PBS Sustainer Learning Center

    Jot down the answers to these questions:

    • Have you attempted to implement a sustainer giving program?
    • What results have you seen?
    • What internal or external resistance have you encountered?

    Sign Up

      I verify that all participants are from a legitimate nonprofit fundraising organization.

      Past Sessions

      8/19/20 Lunch Analysis: How We Gather (Millenial engagement, community-building)

      9/16/20 Lunch Analysis: Growing Engagement Among Underrepresented Groups

      Donor Participation Project Resources

      Growing Donor Engagement Among Underrepresented Groups

      Our second Donor Participation Project meeting was about increasing representation and diversity in our donor populations.

      Guided by Patrick Powell, CFRE, MBA, we had a lively conversation and learned a lot.

      You can read and contribute to the session notes in this Google Doc.

      Additional insights:

      There was a common preconception in the industry: “It is going to take you so much longer to get a gift from a non-white donor.”

      As soon as I made it my intention to build relationships with Black donors, in that same year I raised close to $250k from 2-3 donors.

      It was about: 1) Getting in front of them to let them know that they were important to the institution, regardless of race or color, and that we recognize that they are making an impact and are making a difference as graduates; 2) Letting them know that we want to connect them and get them involved in whatever way is important to them; and 3) Asking them how do they want to put their stamp on an institution where, if they didn’t feel connected, we have a whole group of students who we don’t want to go through the same experience. Tell them, “You have the ability to change that.”

      Join the Conversation

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        Dealing with Conflict

        Situations of conflict with our donors and community members can lead to positive outcomes as long as appropriate conflict resolution skills are utilized. And yet, fundraisers and nonprofit organizations tend to avoid them.

        As an experienced fundraiser once told me:

        I’ll take a strong reaction, even if it is negative, over apathy any day.

        Major Gifts Fundraiser

        Lead with Active Listening and Empathy

        Who are the experts in de-escalating highly agitated situations and lead them to constructive and safe outcomes? Even if your community members are probably not going to be physically violent, the techniques and research generated by the FBI can be helpful.

        The Behavior Change Stairway Model was developed by the FBI’s hostage negotiation unit. This model offers five steps to get other people to see your point of view and change their behavior.

        You can read the full paper here:

        From Stanford’s Game Design Thinking blog

        Behavioral Change Stairway Model

        1. Active Listening: Truly listen and make the other party aware that you’re listening.
        2. Empathy: Understand their position not only intellectually, but also emotionally. What are they feeling?
        3. Rapport: One the other party starts to feel that you understand them. Trust starts to build here.
        4. Influence: At this point, you can start to work on problem-solving with them. They may listen to your recommended course of action.
        5. Behavioral Change: They act.

        Common Errors

        Typically, people try to start directly with #4 (Influence) and expect #5 (Behavioral Change) to happen. This often leads to failure.

        Going into a conflict-laden conversation saying “these are the reasons why your position is wrong” is unlikely to cause any behavioral change because human beings are primarily emotional.

        Pretending that most people are completely rational will, more often than not, make your conversation fail.

        Active Listening Techniques

        General tips from Eric Barker’s blog:

        1. Listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt, disagree or “evaluate.”
        2. Nod your head, and make brief acknowledging comments like “yes” and “uh-huh.”
        3. Without being awkward, repeat back the gist of what they just said, from their frame of reference.
        4. Inquire. Ask questions that show you’ve been paying attention and that move the discussion forward.

        Additional techniques used by FBI negotiators:

        1. Ask open-ended questions
          You don’t want yes-no answers, you want them to open up.
        1. Effective pauses
          Pausing is powerful. Use it for emphasis, to encourage someone to keep talking or to defuse things when people get emotional.
        1. Minimal encouragers
          Brief statements to let the person know you’re listening and to keep them talking.
        1. Mirroring
          Repeating the last word or phrase the person said to show you’re listening and engaged. Yes, it’s that simple — just repeat the last word or two:
        1. Paraphrasing
          Repeating what the other person is saying back to them in your own words. This powerfully shows you really do understand and aren’t merely parroting.
        1. Emotional labeling
          Give their feelings a name. It shows you’re identifying with how they feel. Don’t comment on the validity of the feelings — they could be totally crazy — but show them you understand.

        Donor Conflict Resources

        Never Split the Difference, book by Chris Voss

        Vecchi, Gregory M. “Conflict & crisis communication: a methodology for influencing and persuading behavioral change.” Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, vol. 12, no. 1, Spring 2009, p. 34+. Accessed 12 Sept. 2020.

        Vecchi, G.M., Van Hasselt, V.B. and Romano, S.J., 2005. Crisis (hostage) negotiation: Current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution. Aggression and Violent Behavior10(5), pp.533-551.

        Donor Participation Project

        9/16/20 Lunch Analysis: Growing Engagement Among Underrepresented Groups

        This session has passed. Read the summary and takeaway points here.

        How have you tried to broaden your donor base and make it more representative? What has worked for you? What backfired?

        As part of the Donor Participation Project, this Lunch Analysis session will be guided by Patrick Powell, AVP of Volunteer Engagement and Donor Philanthropy at Morehouse School of Medicine.

        An expert in donor engagement and community-building, Patrick is part of one of the fastest-growing institutions in the country at Morehouse School of Medicine.

        Brainstorm and Discuss this Topic With Peers During our September 16 Lunch Analysis

        Lunch Analysis is a 45-minute meeting that is a part study group, part scholarly discussion, part brainstorming session, and part support group. Participation is open to all who fundraise or have fundraised at a nonprofit.

        Each Lunch Analysis covers a specific topic in donor participation and has required preparation and discussion. This one will be on September 16, 2020 at noon EST.

        Required Preparation

        Take a moment to jot down the answer to the following questions:

        • What is the percentage of alumni giving/participation for your Black and or Latino donors?
        • Has leadership placed an emphasis on engaging donors of color at your institution?
          • If yes, what are the strategies or best practices you’re utilizing to identify and cultivate this constituent group(s)?
          • If no, what do you perceive the barriers are to these discussions? 
        • How has that impacted your desire to cultivate these specific groups if at all?
        • Have you experienced any success or rejection as a result? 

        Sign Up

          I verify that all participants are from a legitimate nonprofit fundraising organization.

          Past Sessions

          8/19/20 Lunch Analysis: How We Gather (Millenial engagement, community-building)


          Adrian Annette Owen, CFRE, AVP for Advancement Services at LSU Foundation

          Allison Kerivan, Director Of Annual Giving at Bentley University

          Benjamin Osterhaut, Director of Annual Giving at Elizabethtown College

          Billie Handa, Director of the Annual Fund, Denison University

          Cameron Hall, Senior Director of Annual Giving at Texas Tech University

          Hawken Brackett, Executive Director of Strategic Engagement at The University of Alabama

          James Barnard, Executive Director of Annual Giving and Integrated Marketing at University of Cincinnati Foundation

          Jayanne Sevast, Director of Development, Annual Campaigns at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

          Miriam McLean, Director of Development, University Initiatives at Tufts University

          Patrick Powell, MBA, CFRE, Senior Development Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

          Sean Devendorf, Senior Director of Annual Giving, University Advancement at Tufts University

          Sierra Rosen, Executive Director of Planned Giving at Brown University

          Donor Participation Project Resources

          Donor Participation Project Kickoff: How We Gather Report

          Angie Thurston of Sacred Design joined a group of fundraisers as part of the Donor Participation Project to discuss the implications of the How We Gather report for nonprofit engagement and donor participation.

          The document below summarizes the main points discussed: