My Top 6 Guides to Effective Fundraising — What Are Yours?

fundraisingThis afternoon, a client asked me about to share my top fundraising resources. Her organization is shifting gears, re-orienting its focus to
better match audience wants and interests, and eager to find funding to make it happen.

In crafting this list, I realized it may be of interest to you and that I’d like to know where you turn for fundraising guidance. Do keep in mind that my core learning strategy is to read/listen to (and talk with, when possible) the best heads on a topic. I learn most easily from case studies that give me the specifics I need to relate what I’m learning to the client project at hand.

Here are my top six fundraising guides. Please share your favorites now in the comments box below (click comments link at bottom or, if you’re looking at the permalink version of this post, just scroll down to bottom):

  • Tom Ahern–Lots of great case studies and fundraising models analyzed and annotated. Easy to learn from, and absolutely on point.
  • Tom Belford & Roger Craver:The Agitator–These guys love to present multiple points of view on a topic which makes the reader work, in a good way. Again, case studies, strategy and a wicked sense of humor.
  • Jeff Brooks: Future Fundraising Now–Formerly blogging at Donor Power, the incredible Jeff Brooks is cranking out almost-daily to-dos now, and every one is golden. Go, Jeff, go!
  • Network for Good: Fundraising 123–This online donation service goes way beyond their donate button to provide top-quality articles and webinars (all free) to strengthen fundraising and marketing skills.
  • Pamela Grow: Grantwriting Blog–Pamela brings a fresh perspective to her sage fundraising advice, as in today’s post pointing out how nonprofit fundraisers can learn (what NOT to do) from Food Network star Paula Deen. Good learning that’s fun and provocative, with lots of examples.

Click on the Comments link below to add the fundraising guides you rely on, and to read about the very important 7th guide I forgot to mention in this post.

P.S. Marketing and fundraising are two halves of a whole. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to
nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly
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Nancy Schwartz on March 26, 2010 in Fundraising: Innovations & Research | 34 comments
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  • Yikes, I forgot to include Mal Warwick, fundraiser extraordinaire, who generously shares his expertise via teaching and writing. Thanks to the loyal reader who reminded me (I’ve blogged on Mal, for goodness sake).
    His site is a wonderful resource for those wishing to plumb the depths of giving behavior, tested by years of experience. See

  • Sofii is fantastic, Craig. Thanks for adding that. For those of you who don’t know it, it comprises “211 detailed illustrated case histories from the world’s best fundraising campaigns and promotions. And growing all the time.” Fantastic.
    Looking forward to digging into study fundraising as well.
    Readers, do you have a resource to add? Please comment here.

  • Craig

    Hi Nancy, all the sites you mention are really great, but for me the number one source of inspiration is SOFII (
    For a more academic take, Prof Adrian Sargeant’s new site looks really interesting as well:

  • Let’s not forgot the two core sources that are fantastically useful guides for fundrisers:
    The Chronicle of Philanthopy
    Fundraising Success
    Both are rich with insights on how to fundraise more effectively.

  • To paraphrase Julia Roberts’ speech to Hugh Grant from the movie, Notting Hill: I’m just a writer … standing in front of a target audience … asking them to love his words and ideas.
    So … one of my favorite blogs comes NOT from the fundraising world, but from the business journalism side of things: Ann Wylie at Wylie Communications. She’s a terrific writer who keeps me up-to-date on pertinent research from the world of journalism and feeds me a steady diet of neat tricks I can use in donor newsletters.
    ==> I pretty much read every Mal Warwick.
    ==> Every Future Fundraising Now — Jeff’s ongoing pillage of bad pro bono advertising makes me giggle AND he is all donor love, all the time.
    ==> Every Seth Godin.
    ==> Every For Impact Now — love their quixotic campaign to change the industry’s name from “nonprofit” to “for impact”; tip ‘o the hat.
    ==> Every Pamela Grow.
    ==> Every Phyllis Freedman (planned giving, drills deep).
    ==> Every Alan Sharpe (Canadian, direct mail, newsletters, top shelf practical stuff).
    ==> I’ve just stumbled upon and like very much the blog by Jonathon Grapsas at Pareto; he gets into the math end of direct mail.
    ==> I ADORE SOFII and hang out there all the time, especially when I’m having a stupid day.
    ==> Love you, Nancy. And love the OTHER Schwartz-a-poopie, my good friend RICK Schwartz at SchwartzTalk, who writes a monthly, loooong article on whatever’s gotten under his bonnet: his advice on annual reports, for instance, was profound.

  • From Sean Powell, of PMG. I somehow deleted his original post so wanted to share the info. Thanks Sean!
    “I would add:
    1) Rebecca Leaman of the Wild Apricot blog
    2) Mark Phillips across the pond at Bluefrog and the Queer Ideas blog”
    Thanks, Sean. What are your additions to this top fundraising resources list?

  • Tina Cincotti

    Amen to Tom Ahern & Jeff Brooks!!
    While not specifically a fundraising blog, I get all kinds of inspiration from Seth Godin.
    And Lisa Sargeant has a great e-newsletter.
    Thanks for getting this post started, Nancy.
    Tina Cincotti

  • Here are two great compilations of top fundraising blogs:
    From Jeff Brooks (mentioned above)
    From the Fundraising Detective (aka Craig)

  • Elaine Fogel

    Nancy, you are so modest. Fundraising professionals worldwide read your blog. Hence, you should be on the list, too. :)
    Your topic made me think that there’s some blurring between fundraising, marketing and communications. You inspired me to write a post on it!
    Hope you’ll add your two cents when it gets posted on 3-29-10. Elaine Fogel – Totally Uncorked.
    (Will do, Elaine. Thanks, Nancy)

  • Thanks, Nancy for including The Agitator. Delighted to see we’re in such good company. Most of all, thanks to you and your readers for sharing thoughts on great resources.
    Much of what we report and comment on in The Agitator involves trends, especially those in new media. BUT … let’s not forget that the ultimate marketing and fundraising success, no matter what the media, is rooted in a masterful understanding of the basic principles of sales and marketing. Fortunately, there’s an immense body of knowledge that is as applicable today as it was 80, 60, 40, or even 20 years ago.
    So, don’t forget the “classics.” Here are my favorites that I consider “must” reading:
    1) How to Write a Good Advertisement by Vic Schwab (Wilshire Book Company, 1962). A common-sense course in how to write advertising copy that gets people to buy your produce or service – and, by extension, your organization’s mission and campaigns, written by a plain-speaking veteran mail order copywriter in 1960.
    Best part: 100 “archetypal” headlines that are just as relevant today as 45 year ago. New controls (e.g., “When Doctors Feel Rotten, This is What They Do.”)
    2) My First 50 Years in Advertising by Max Sackheim (Prentice-Hall, 1970). Another plain speaking, common sense guide that stresses salesmanship over creativity, and results over rewards. The author was one of the originators of the Book-of-the-Month Club.
    Best part: The oversize format allows full-size reproductions (large enough for the copy to be legible) of many classic direct response ads (e.g., “They thought I Was Crazy to Ship Live Main Lobsters as Far as 1,800 Miles from the Ocean.”)
    3) Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961). The book in which Reeves introduced the now-famous concept of USP (the Unique Selling Proposition).
    Best part: The idea that every successful ad must: (a) offer a benefit; (b) the benefit must differentiate your product from the competition; and, (c) the benefit must be big enough to motivate buyers to purchase your product instead of others. Fundraisers and cause marketers, take note!
    4) Tested Advertising Methods, Fifth Edition by John Caples, revised by Fred Hahn (Prentice-Hall, 1997). An updated version of John Caples’ classic book on the principles of persuasion as proven through A/B split tests. If the folks handling your new media haven’t read this, fire ‘em.
    Best part: The A/B split headline tests with the results (e.g., for an air conditioner, “How to have a cool, quiet bedroom – even on hot nights” pulled 2-1/2 times the response of “Get rid of that humidity with a new room cooler that also dries the air.”)
    5) Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy (Atheneum) Charming autobiography of legendary ad man David Ogilvy, with useful advice on how to create effective advertising. Co-Agitator Tom Belford has also chosen this classic.
    Best part: Chapter 6 on “How to Write Potent Copy.”
    6) Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins (Bell Publishing, 1920). This 87-year-old book is the classic on the philosophy that advertising’s purpose is to sell, not entertain or win creative awards – and how to apply this philosophy to create winning ads – and landing pages, and e-mail subject lines, and … and …
    Best part: Hopkins’ observation that, “specifics sell; superlatives roll off the human understanding like water off a duck’s back.”
    7) Method Marketing by Denny Hatch (Bonus Books, 1999). From one of the most incisive, insightful, no-nonsense “agitators” in the world of sales and marketing, this book shows you how to write successful direct response copy by putting yourself in the customer’s (read “donor” and “prospect’s”) shoes. Packed with case histories of modern direct response success stories.
    Best part: The introduction of the concept of method marketing which states: “You cannot write copy without getting inside the head of the person to whom you are communicating and becoming that person.”
    8) While you’re at it, also check out Denny’s Million Dollar Mailings (Libey Publishing, 1992), a case history with full examples of some of the most powerful direct mail campaigns ever. Again, the lessons here can and should be applied by anyone seeking to motivate donors to action, no matter what the medium.
    9) Eighty-Six Tutorials on Creating Fundraising Letters and Packages by Jerry Huntsinger (Emerson Publishers, 2000). Virtually everything you learn from this direct mail master applies today – whether in the mail, on the phone, or over the Internet. Clear and direct guidance on how to really create a winning fundraising message.
    Best part: 87 concrete chapters on “how to,” based on proven experience. A chapter a day for the next three months will put you in the “winners” column for sure.
    P.S. In making certain that the advertising, marketing and messaging classics were covered, I almost overlooked the great fundraising classic. Written in 1966 by Harold J. “Si” Seymour, a dean of modern, organized fundraising, particularly the capital campaign.
    10) Designs for Fundraising: Principles, Patterns, Techniques (McGraw-Hill, 1966) has been through many editors since then. Not a word has been changed from the original text. Why? Si knew his stuff. He began his fundraising career with the Harvard Endowment Campaign in 1919. Over the next five decades, the non-profit world benefited from his unpretentious, tell-it-like-it-is style.
    Every fundraiser who’s curious about the origins of our trade and its history should get Si’s book, read it, and have it readily accessible on your bookshelf for frequent reference.

  • Hi Nancy,
    Great guide – you covered so may great ones!
    Love Jeff Brooks and Marc Pitman – read them all the time, and I second the nomination of Wild Apricot, though it isn’t specifically focused on fundraising (more on social media tools), these are easily integrated with fundraising.
    If you’re interested in cause marketing, Joe Waters’ is a great guide.
    I find Steve McLaughlin’s Blackbaud blog really helpful – great stats, and a regular read on fundraising trends at
    Lastly, I think Katya Andressen is often right on-target with her

  • What a fantastic list and discussion! Just about everything I had to add has already been listed in others’ comments!!
    I’ll throw in another vote for SOFII because it’s based on my favorite way to learn – case studies. To that end, I wanted to mention that my best resource isn’t a list or compilation of any kind…it’s taking a break from my own organization (and sometimes my own cause field) and taking in what other non-profit’s are doing, both small and large.
    Simply making myself aware of what other groups are doing provides copious amounts of both energy and inspiration. Taking note of what’s working (and what isn’t) for other NPO’s, using other’s successful campaigns as springboards for out-of-the-box thinking in my own organization…these real-time examples are the greatest help to me when I’m truly stuck. I wrote a largely anecdotal piece based on this premise this morning – Using Your Cause Community to Help Prevent Burnout:
    Thank you again for such a lively post – you and your readers have given me A LOT of new resources to mine through!

  • Nancy, thank you! I’m honored to be included in this list.
    In between the posting and the comments, you’ve all hit it right on. I’ve been a huge fan of Mal Warwick’s for ages – and found Tom Ahern’s stuff through him. Likewise with Sofii, which I somehow stumbled upon right at its inception, I found Lisa Sargent (
    I also regularly read your blog and I’ve just found – her marketing is fun and dead-on funny to boot. I regularly peruse Alltop’s nonprofit section ( and’s nonprofit guide is an uncomplicated how-to resource (

  • 1. At the top of my list is SOFII at There’s simply no better source of top-notch fundraising examples, and they come from all over the world. That way we Americans get the benefit of practitioners who come at the challenges of fundraising with fresh eyes, unblocked by our own cultural assumptions.
    2. The best overall guide to fundraising in book form is “Hank Rosso’s Achieving Excellence in Fund Raising,” edited by Eugene Tempel. A second edition is in production now. It’s an accessible collection of overview articles about each of the major specialties within the field of development. Each is written by a specialist in that area.
    3. Next to SOFII, I have been told (and the Web traffic supports the claim) that my company’s Web site,, encompasses the second-best collection of articles, Q&As, newsletter archives, book chapters, and links now available online. Similarly, my free monthly newsletter on direct response fundraising, is widely read worldwide.
    4. Among my top sources of up-to-date intelligence about the world of fundraising and communications (which I see as intertwined), in addition to your own blog, Nancy, are Roger Craver and Tom Belford’s “The Agitator,” Jeff Brooks’ “Future Fundraising Now,” Tom Ahern’s e-newsletter, Katya Andresen’s “Non-Profit Marketing Blog,” as well as The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s daily news summary.
    5. For those starting out in fundraising, and for anyone who raises funds for a small, community-based organization, Joan Flanagan’s “Successful Fundraising,” now in multiple editions, is the best I’ve come across. It’s also sold huge numbers.
    6. There are numerous books about specialized areas of fundraising, and some of them are even good. But I’m sticking here to those sources that deal with fundraising more broadly. Similarly, there are many other sources, online and off, for good information on communications, marketing, human motivation, and other related topics. (Seth Godin, for example.) But I’m skipping them because I want to take your challenge literally and focus on fundraising.

  • Lisa Daggett

    My favorite fundraising blog is Janet Levine Consulting’s – “Too Busy to Fundraise.”
    Janet combines an amazing sense of humor with real world practicality and makes everything logical! I love her posts.

  • Here’s another authoritative fundraising writer who should be included: Simone Joyaux at The Nonprofit Quarterly

  • Core info, strategy, principles, and networks for individual fundraising:
    All the Kim Klein books.
    Andy Robinson’s books on Grassroots Grants, earned revenue, and great boards for small groups.
    And I like to think the ChangeMatters blog (formerly called Fundraising Breakthroughs) shares good content on fundraising and more.

  • Lisa Sargent

    Thanks for asking me to weigh in, Nancy:
    The contributions so far are like guests at the best party ever: most of my favorites are already here!
    Still, I’d invite a few more. Being a copywriter, I like stuff that helps me crawl inside a reader’s skin and walk around for awhile.
    1.) So I’ll start with this: The swipe file. All of your nonprofit clients should be giving seed donations to their competitors, online and by direct mail. They should also give to orgs in other sectors, too. That way they can see what’s being done, both good and bad. Barring this, I echo three words heard here already: SOFII, SOFII, SOFII. Can I say it again? SOFII is swipe file nirvana.
    2.) Roger Craver is a step ahead of me listing the classics. (Hooray for Method Marketing; Denny Hatch rules. And Caples — in my well-loved copy of his book, the section on headlines is literally falling out )
    3.) Winning Direct Response Advertising, by the late Joan Throckmorton (really old book, if you can find it). The best part is her Underlying Law of Creativity: “Does this make sense to the customer?” Possibly the best 7 words ever written in copywriting history.
    4.) Donor-Centered Fundraising by Penelope Burk. Fabulous.
    5.) Tiny essentials of Writing for Fundraising, by George Smith, who is such a wonderful writer that I wish the book was at least ten times longer. (From White Lion Press:
    6.) On Writing, by Stephen King. (Yes, that Stephen King. Read it, if you write.)
    And since everyone in the nonprofit world seems to have stumbled onto behavioral economics, books like Nudge (Thalstein, et. al) are good. So are these:
    7.) Influence, by Robert Cialdini. About persuasion (a good thing to know, when asking for money).
    8.) The brothers Heath, all: Made to Stick, Switch, and their blog:
    And since persuasive writing means knowing what people who don’t necessarily think like you think:
    9.) I like Pew Internet and American Life Project and
    10.) The Roper Center for Public Opinion,, here in the great state of CT!
    Also, good website and design resources:
    10.) Jakob Nielsen is The Man when it comes to website usability,
    11.) Steve Krug is The Other Man. His book, Don’t Make Me Think, is top notch.
    12.) Type & Layout by Colin Wheildon will, I pray, cure us of the “Reversed Out Font” curse. Readability reigns supreme.
    Re: magazines. I’d add Deliver, and Direct. Both worth reading.
    Oh! and Strunk’s Elements of Style, for writing. I could go on for eons. But now, will stop. :-) Thanks again, Nancy. Happy guiding! Lisa Sargent

  • Kudos to Nancy for starting this great list! I’d add Reynold Levy’s Yours for the Asking and Ken Burnett’s The Zen of Fundraising.

  • Wow. First “wow” is to be included on the list with so many other greats!
    The second “wow” is all the great resources that have been shared!
    Here are my additions (although some are repeats)
    * I wholeheartedly recommend reading anything by Seth Godin. I also recommend reading “Trust Agents” by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith.
    * “Creating Customer Evangeslists” by Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell is really good too. (Full disclosure: I liked it so much, I got their permission to create an audio program “Creating DONOR Evangelists.”) This is pre-Facebook and Twitter so it helps get beyond the “shiny new toy” and see some comming principles.
    * Harold “Sy” Seymours “Designs for Fundraising” is a classic. I found a copy at
    * Jeff Brooks, Mal Warwick, FundRaising Success Mag, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Hildy Gottlieb, Beth Kanter, Katya Andresen, Nancy Schwartz (*grin*), Kivi Leroux Miller are all on my ‘read this now list.’
    * was one of my favorite destinations for many years. I haven’t been there lately but they have quite a strong community.
    * I don’t do podcasts but I’m a fan of the Baudcast. Chad Norman and his guests and colleagues do a great job rounding up technology impacting the nonprofit sector.
    * Most of my current fundraising reading and information is coming from my colleagues on Twitter. I’ve created a Twitter list with most of them in it:
    I’ll stop there–even thought I know I missed people. I hope these help!

  • I’m back again to see what I’ve missed :D.
    Like Lisa, I love Cialdini and – yes! – Stephen King’s short book on writing.
    Marc mentioned Hildy Gottlieb, and I’ve got to say that her book, The Pollyanna Principles, while not technically a how-to guide, provides a definite “how-to” on changing the mindset of lack prevalent in the nonprofit world. Inspiring stuff and highly recommended.
    And how could I forget John Haydon’s blog? John’s brilliance lies in making complex tech stuff utterly doable for the small nonprofit.

  • Barbara Talisman

    Here here for GREAT resource for fundraising success and challenges near and far.
    LOVE Heather Mansfield’s Nonprofit Tech 2.0. All things social media for nonprofits.
    Also @FRDetective blog offers great resources, ideas, good compilation and like the UK twist
    Kimberley MacKenzie’s blog Kimberley’s Comments offers real time thoughts and ideas that work or make you think.
    Also love Stanford Social Innovation Review – thinking outside the box.
    Agree with many suggestions above and will be adding to my favs list!
    Thanks for asking Nancy! See you soon!

  • Craig

    Thanks for the link to my list Nancy and also to Barbara for putting me forward.
    I aspire to be half the writer of most the people listed!
    To follow up on Lisa’s comment – George Smith’s longer book ‘Asking Properly’ is wonderful.
    Tom Ahern’s book on writing fundraising newsletters has earned me at least one promotion from following his rules.
    I can’t believe no-one has mentioned Kay Sprinkel Grace yet. Her books ‘Over goal’ and ‘Beyond Fundraising’ are musts.
    I also think the ‘Wizard of Ads’ books by Roy H Williams have some great ideas and suggestions in them.

  • I’m a big fan of Civil Society Media’s Fundraising magazine and the companion website. It’s filled with great insight from fundraisers in the UK:

  • Jana Byington-Smith

    Thanks for a nice list — good ideas abound!
    I am all on donor retention, and to that end I recommend two exceptional books. I like them because they’re not based on a lot of anecdotal and ‘try this’ stories, but on solid research and execution. Both Josh and Adrian serve on the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) committee with me, and we’ve presented together at AFP Intl.
    ‘Fundraising Analytics’ by Josh Birkholz
    and ‘Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value” by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay

  • Pam McAllister

    I’m really glad to see people mentioning classics like Sy Seymour’s book.
    Another timeless classic is Jim Lord’s “The Raising of Money,” which was first published soon after Seymour.
    I’m working with Jim to bring his more recent work into public view. A starting point is here:
    It’s all big-picture strategy, mindset, “inner game,” pushing the envelope of what’s possible. We really want to encourage people to keep thinking big, especially these days when confidence seems a little harder to hang onto!

  • I can’t believe I forgot Movie Mondays! What WAS I thinking?

    The folks at 501Videos do this amazing and free weekly video on fundraising. You can see a sample near the bottom of the page at:

  • John B. Donovan

    Don’t leave Jerold Panas off your list. The many books he has written and his website A wealth of information and experience. No library is complete without several of his books.

  • One of my basic requirements with new clients starting a fundraiser is to plan out the fundraiser’s goals, the responsibilities of each volunteer helping make the fundraiser a success, and the marketing/promotional plan so their contact list of supporters and their website visitors know about the fundraiser and why it is happening. Then I give them digital support materials for social media, website content, and press releases for the fundraiser’s launch.

  • Mikhaela Payden-Travers

    For small nonprofit Kim Klein Fundraising for Social Change is a life saver!

  • Beth Rademacher

    You offer amazing resources!! Thank you for your spirit of abundance and generosity!


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  • gammagum

    Cant believe you forgot SOFII. Its the best by far!

  • SOFII is great! Thanks for the add.

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