Are you using that all wrong?

Advice booth picture used for major gift fundraising blog, taken by laughlin on Flicker, we get so used to using something, we don't realize we're using it the wrong way. Here are three tools that nonprofits use all the time. And many use the wrong way.

Common uses and a better way

  1. Donor Database

    Common use: Recording gifts and keeping addresses. If this is all you're using your donor database for, you're using it wrong.
    Better use: Beyond keeping transactions and addresses, you can keep notes from visits. Record birthdays, areas of interest, hobbies, and when people like to be solicited. Used well, donor database system can be use to honor donors.

  2. Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)

    Common use: Posting updates about a nonprofit.
    Better use: The power in social media is realized when you start interacting with others. Liking other posts and commenting appropriately (not promotionally). If you come to the social media party, don't be the guy that is so self-absorbed he only talks about himself. Be genuinely interested in other people. Share other organization's posts. Be social.

  3. Email Newsletters

    Common use: Bragging about your organization and just talking about your people or work.
    Better use: A better use for email newsletters is to show donors what their gifts make this possible. You need to be explicit. Rather than showing them by talking about your nonprofit, you need to make donors the hero. Afterall, if they didn't give, you wouldn't be able to do anything. (For an amazingly simple way to do this, check out this quick video from Tom Ahern:

Take time to re-examine

As you can see, the "wrong" use is less about total misuse as it is about settling for partial use. It's not like using a screwdriver to pick your teeth, or trying to twist a screw with a toothpick. It's more like having a Lamborghini and only going to the corner store.

We're 12 weeks into the year. Just about 25% gone. Now is a great time to reassess the tools you're using. Perhaps you could set a calendar reminder to do this every 12 weeks. One time you may want to examine digital tools. Another you may want to assess your use of meetings or "annual" performance reviews. Another time, your use of the facilities you have.

If you need some other ideas, check out this thread on Facebook.

What about you?

Have you recently recognized some tools you're using wrong? Please share your breakthroughs in the comments below!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Exactly! Settling for partial use is as common in small businesses as it is small nonprofits. I wonder about picking one tool and focusing on making better use of it for a quarter. Imagine what would change in just 3 months.


  1. […] Sometimes, getting into a routine means forming bad habits. In his post, Marc Pitman reveals the common (mis)uses of donor databases, social media, and email newsletters and suggest more lucrative alternatives. Re-examine how you’re using these tools and channels, and then ask yourself- Are you using them all wrong? […]

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