Simple Development Systems by Pamela GrowA few months ago, my colleague Pamela Grow released a new book specifically for nonprofits with a “one person” fundraising shop. This isn’t just theory for her, she actually has been successful as a one person shop. So, since I love small shops-and even contributed a chapter to this book-I interviewed her about her approach.

Here is some of the transcript of some that interview. (Like I do with all books I mention on this blog, the links to this book are affiliate links.)

Me: Hi Pamela! Simple Development Systems: Successful Fundraising for the One-Person Shop is clearly written for small shops. What’s different about being responsible for doing it all rather than being a part of a larger development team?

Pamela Grow: Well Marc, whether you’re an executive director who is also responsible for doing the fundraising (until you can hire someone) or the development director of a one-person shop, being responsible for everything – from grant proposal writing, to individual giving, to database management, to online giving and creating a website, to social media and MORE – it’s easy to get distracted by every bright shiny new object that comes along.

What Simple Development Systems does, according to one reader, is to “focus your efforts in the places that will have the largest impact.”

ME: Focus is so important! What are some of your recommendations for focusing?

PG: Focus can be hard, can’t it? We’re living in an ADHD world with more distractions than ever before. You know yourself, Marc, the distractions that come from balancing client work, with speaking engagements. And social media. And blogging. Not to mention family life! There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

And this is where I’m going to spout that old Yogi Berra quote:

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

It’s true, isn’t it? You’ve got to, first off, create a solid plan.

  • How much can you reasonably expect to raise from grants this year?
  • How will you grow your individual giving?
  • Does your individual giving plan include growing online giving?
  • Are you creating a monthly giving program? (BTW, I’ve got a recording of a wonderful call I did with Harvey McKinnon who literally wrote the book on monthly giving, Hidden Gold, in Simple Development Systems.)
  • If you’ve got a monthly giving program – and you should, how will you be growing it?

So you’ve got to create a plan first. Then, well you’ve got to WORK it! Simple Development Systems guides the reader through the steps to creating a workable plan for sustainable funding.

Me: Helping with creating a fundraising plan is essential. What about the motivation to keep actually implementing the plan?

PG: Motivation, well that can be tough too, can’t it? We are virtually surrounded by negativity on so many levels. My advice? Turn it off. Listen to motivational recordings on your ipod while you’re working, start your day with some intense cardio (I get my best ideas when I’m running on the nature trail in the morning), bring a hula hoop to work! Have fun!

It’s also so important to get away from desk: whether it’s to visit with donors, to spend some time observing your organization’s programs or even to answer phones or greet people at the front desk. Get a different perspective!

And remember: your fundraising will be easier when you’re tough on yourself. Resist that urge to check your email or Facebook or Twitter! If you’re constantly checking email, check out installing something like Leechblock. What this tool does is block the sites that you specify.

MP: Great point. The tougher we are on ourselves, the easier our task will be. At least in my experience!

I know when we’ve spoken before that you’ve said that shifting your focus from money to building relationships will take all the stress out of fundraising and raise more money too. What do you mean by that?

PG: It’s pretty simple. When you’re focused on raising money, you’re focused on the short-term. When you’re focusing on building relationships with supporters, you’re focused on the long-term stability of your organization.

And, of course I don’t mean – ever – to abandon your ASKS. We all know the importance of creating a system of asks.

As a one person shop with overwhelming responsibilities, one of your daily non-negotiable habits should be spending 30 minutes to an hour connecting with donors. How can you do this? As simple as calling them to thank them for a gift.

Several of my clients have balked or put off making phone calls. You might need a sample script when you make that first call or two. You might feel awkward – I know that I did – heck, even when I was in sales I preferred the face-to-face over a phone call – so create a script. Be personable, be genuine.

Another tip is to keep a drawerful of thank you cards and note cards and send out one handwritten note a day – to a volunteer, to a donor, to a board member – expressing your gratitude for their contribution to your organization. I learned from my grandmother that gratitude plays a key role in everything you do – I know that you know that to be true too, Marc.

MP: You’ve got a lot of resources in Simple Development Systems I know since I contributed an article on social media! 🙂 What was your reasoning behind that?

PG: I do! There’s a 90 minute recorded webinar on how to write donor newsletters that raise money from the brilliant Tom Ahern, teleseminars from Harvey McKinnon and Mal Warwick and contributions from a slew of amazing people, including Ken Burnett, Mazarine Treyz, John Haydon, Gail Perry, and more.

And the reasoning behind that is that I want to expose people who are new to fundraising to the absolute best resources out there. There’s a lot of misinformation in our sector – a lot of information that simply doesn’t apply to “small shops.” I wanted to only include what would help a small shop.

MP: What one piece of advice do you have for nonprofits who need to establish a solid base of funding?

PG: Well, I’m a big believer in applying sound donor-centric strategies across the board – even in terms of grantseeking – and that’s what Simple Development Systems is all about.

A huge problem in our sector, one that we talk about constantly, is donor retention. if anyone reading has not read the book Relationship Fundraising by Ken Burnett, I highly recommend it. Ken prefaces every chapter in the book with a “Donor Profile,” an in-depth story about one particular individual and how and why they give. Each profile describes in depth a particular donor’s day to day life, his/her likes and dislikes, the kind of car that he/she drives, even their upbringing.

I think that there are a lot of professional fundraisers who still don’t truly grasp the concept of donor-centered fundraising and think its some sort of trend in the nonprofit world when, in reality, it is the only legitimate – I would even venture to say the only honest – method to long-term, sustainable funding.

What we fundraisers often forget is that the “who is so much more important than the what.” We’ll spend hours crafting our mission statement or our organization’s story – without giving the slightest thought to the person who is reading it!

The surest way to strengthening your fundraising is by doing a donor profile. Truly envision that person. What they do for a living, what they wear, where they live, how many children they have, where they worship – give that person a name!

You might have more than one donor profile – but figuring out who that person is is going to absolutely streamline your fundraising and marketing.

Think about it this way Marc – when you’re researching a prospective foundation funder, don’t you try to find out everything that you can about that funder prior to drafting your proposal? Why wouldn’t you do that with all donors?

I think that gives you a sense of Pamela’s thought process and the style in Simple Development Systems. On the Simple Development Systems you’ll see more about the book and comments from people who’ve found it to be a lifesaver in their own one-person, small nonprofit fundraising shop.

More information is available at: Simple Development Systems

Another tool that Pamela and I worked on and has been incredibly useful for small shops is 100 Donors in 90 Days. You can learn more at

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