The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® for the Eight Nights of Hanukkah


by Jonah Halper, MPA, Founding Partner of ALTRUICITY and Author of Date Your Donors

Hanukkah, according to popular belief, is a celebration of a Menorah in the Jewish Temple that miraculously stayed lit for 8 nights on just a little bit of oil.  However, the real miracle and reason for the holiday was the ability of the Maccabees, a small group of Jewish warriors, being able to defeat the Hellenistic-Greek army, and retain their Jewish ritual and practice.  Only after this victory did the menorah come to symbolize this narrative of the few and weak being able to overcome great odds and succeed – symbolically the Jews were like a small amount of oil lasting the full 8 days!

In the nonprofit world, our organizations operate as the underdog.  They are our weak who must overcome great odds to succeed.  They don’t have budgets like Coca Cola to market and sell their missions.  While there are so many causes that are underfunded, they still manage to leverage their money to accomplish great things!

In the spirit of Hanukkah, being able to maximize your limited resources to raise funds for your cause is what separates the warriors from the weak.  For each night of Hanukkah, and drawing on the wisdom of The Eight Principles of Fundraising®, here are eight inexpensive tricks and techniques that can help you and your organization succeed!

Principle 1: Donors are the Drivers®

Treat the donor like an investor, not an ATM machine.

Schedule a meeting with an existing donor who is under-giving, and share with them what their money is accomplishing.  Show them real impact through pictures, video and statistics and underscore how their giving made this possible.  If you treat them like an investor instead of an ATM machine, you will find that they will likely increase their support because they are now experiencing their role as a true partner.

Principle 2: Begin at the Beginning™

Show what the completed puzzle looks like.

When you open a new puzzle and dump out all the pieces, most people will prop up the cover that features the full puzzle picture and use that as a guide.  Good fundraisers sell their cause based on the full picture.  Clarity in this vision not only gets donors excited about the potential, but it also justifies the increases in donor giving, because more financial support means having more resources to complete that puzzle!

Principle 3: Leadership Leads™

Securing Honorees

One of the more stressful aspects of event fundraising, is securing quality honorees that can put more people in the seats, and for the honorees to motivate their friends or colleagues to give generously in honor of them.  When asking a donor to become an honoree, they will very often respond with a variation of “I don’t need the honor”.  This is your opportunity to explain to them that being an honoree is less about the donor’s prestige, and more about the value it brings to the cause.  How so?  It shows other donors and community members what leadership looks like, and then gives people something to strive towards.  Turning down the honor would therefore hurt the opportunity to educate and inspire others. How could any donor turn down that responsibility?!

Principle 4: Learn & Plan™

Identify your audience, and then target their leaders

You can work hard or smart…with limited resources, it probably pays to work smart.  You may know who is the ideal candidate to support your cause.  It could be members of a country club, a gated community, or your local church or synagogue.  However, trying to canvas all those members is very time consuming, especially as you are trying to introduce yourself, establish credibility, inspire them with your cause, and get them to partner in your mission.  You can quickly gain traction by enlisting the support of those who are most influential with those targeted groups… their leaders and influencers.  Get their buy-in and they can become a valuable ambassador for you, establishing trust and access much quicker than engaging them one at a time.

Principle 5: Work From the Inside Out™

Create a pipeline for small gifts

We tend to underestimate the micro-donation.  While it does take a lot of $10 gifts to equal a single $1,000 gift, you may be under the mistaken impression that getting those $10 gifts is not a valuable use of your time.  However, even if you put aside the accrued volume of these gifts translating into substantial sums, having a large base of small donors can serve as a perfect pool to research and then fish for bigger donations.  Someone may come in as a $10 donor, but when you see that they are a big-time lawyer who has an affinity to your cause, that small-fry donor can become a large one in a matter of months.

Principle 6: Divide & Grow™

Immersive Experiences are Universal

Organizations often struggle with creating content that educates and inspired to a diverse audience.  Nonprofit professionals are always looking to cast a wide net with a one-size-fit-all engagement.  Why?  Because engagement takes time, and developing something that is uniform requires less work and resources.  However, not everyone reads e-newsletters.  Not everyone wants to come to your events.  Not everyone will open your direct mail solicitation.  The true litmus test for 21st century engagement strategies is when you ask yourself “is this immersive?”  If someone can visualize the impact, and be moved to act on their feelings, then you have succeeded.  Consider texting photos and videos to your donors when you are down in the trenches of your cause’s good work.  Use live streaming video, whether through a platform like UStream or Facebook Live.  Whatever you do, make sure it is a real and immersive experience.

Principle 7: Renew & Refresh™

Be unpredictable with your “Thank you”

If you were playing Family Feud and had to guess the two most popular methods for thanking a donor, what would they be?  I hope you said “in person” or “a card”.  Well, those are perfectly acceptable methods to demonstrate your gratitude.  But wouldn’t it be great to show your appreciation for an extraordinary gift, with an extraordinary thank you?  Also, if your hope is to sustain this generous giving year after year, it would be wise to think outside of the box when it comes to thanking your donor.  Perhaps have those impacted by your mission, thank the donor directly through photo or video.  Or perhaps have key members of your organizational leadership make personal calls to the donor to demonstrate their appreciation.

Principle 8: Invest, Integrate & Evaluate™

Be bold. Fail fast.

When you are running on a lean budget, it is important to take calculated risks.  The riskiest thing to do is use your lack of a budget as a scapegoat for inaction.  Make proactive decisions to try new things, and if they don’t work identify the reasons why.  When you know why, scrap it quickly, so you can either pivot or try a whole new avenue that may have better results.  One of the best benefits of being small and lean, is the ability to be nimble in making decisions, and getting back up when you make a mistake.

Go out there, and raise money for your cause.  This Hanukkah, be a warrior.


Jonah Halper, MPA is a thought leader on nonprofit marketing and fundraising specializing in new donor acquisition and engaging new leaders in 21st century philanthropy.

As Founding Partner of ALTRUICITY, he consults many organizations looking to build their base of support, and helps them develop a new generation of organizational leadership.  He is also a founding member of The Eight Principles Fellows.

Jonah is Author of, Date your Donors: How to Attract and Engage a New Generation of Philanthropists, demonstrating how the process and execution of fundraising is akin to courtship, making it accessible to anyone, and a vital model for success in the 21st century.

Jonah is married with four children and lives in Wesley Hills, NY.

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