My Book is Finally Done! Now What?

I can’t believe it! It’s finished! I just sent the final edits off to my publisher and it’s finally done!!!

I’m popping the champagne – and I want to share with you some lessons I learned that are useful for any nonprofit leader with too much to do.

(And I also want to ask your advice about putting together a special launch team to work with me on getting the word out – watch the video to learn more!)

So what do you think… do you want to be on my book launch team? If you have thoughts about it, or want to apply, please go to this page and let me know!

And also, you can download a free chapter of the book right now and also sign up for free bonuses if you pre-order. All the information is available at

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A 60-Day Donor Retention Plan

donor retention

Congratulations! You survived the end of the calendar year fundraising rush.

That’s no small feat, so please give yourself a pat on the back immediately.

I hope you (and your organization) recognize your dedication and hard work. But if no one else has told you this, allow me to say it: great job!

You’ve brought new dollars through the door and that’s huge. But I actually think you accomplished something even more important.

You brought in new donors.

Even a new donor that only makes a gift of $10 (or even less) is worth her weight in gold.


Because it’s much easier to get a previous donor to give again than it is to secure a new donor.

But that’s true only if you have a good donor retention strategy.

But what if you are an organization with limited staff? What if you don’t have a well-developed major gift or individual giving program?

Not to fear, even the smallest organization can be top-notch at donor retention.

With that in mind here is my four-step 60-day plan to keep your new donors happy and set them up to be repeat givers.Continue Reading

Your 10 Favorite Posts of 2016

favorite posts 2016

Ah 2016.

Well, certainly nobody can accuse you of being boring.

As I do in December each year, I sat down and reviewed my blog statistics to see which posts resonated with you the most.

I am blown away at the piece that landed in #1 spot – I found your receptivity to this post quite inspiring.

As for the other nine, you’ll see a diversity of topics represented and worth reading (or re-reading) as you take at least a short break between the end of one year and the start of another (she says hopefully.)

I’d like to make one last suggestion before I head out to enjoy the holidays with my family.

If you are a board chair, would you take a few minutes to write an email to the entire staff on behalf of the board? Wish them a happy holiday, tell them how much respect you have for them and how proud you are to lead the board of your remarkable organization. Maybe point out one accomplishment that really stood out for you. And say thank you.

If you are a staff leader, I’d love to see you take a few minutes with your senior team (if you have staff and maybe lead volunteers if you don’t) and kick around what each of you saw as the most significant accomplishments of the past twelve months. One of you should jot them all down. I guarantee each of you will have something different to say and will inspire each other.

And then take a few more minutes and write a note to your staff. Thank them for their passion, their energy and their determination. Ask them to thank their families on your behalf for putting up with moms, dads, kids, partners who live and breathe their work much of the time. And then offer them your list of accomplishments. Suggest they read them again on New Year’s Eve and that you intend to do the same.

It will remind you all of what often gets lost. That your work is a joy and a privilege.

Wishing you all a warm and wonderful holiday and a 2017 that exceeds every expectation.

And now, here are your favorite posts from 2016.

Drumroll please…

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The Problem With Special Events

Nonprofits LOVE special events. And why not? They’re exciting and bring in revenue. But there’s a huge problem with them. In this video, I tell you what that is and suggest a better approach.

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6 Year-End Fundraising Tips


Hello fellow fundraisers! I have an important message for you here:

We’re now entering our most important time of the year. A time when all our financial dreams come true. Right? Right?

I’m sure all of this is true at your nonprofit:

  • Your hard copy solicitations are printed and stuffed, each with a gracious handwritten note from your Executive Director.
  • All of your fundraising emails are perfectly formatted and waiting patiently in the cloud for you to press send. Each email will land at the top of your donor’s inboxes who just happen to already have their credit cards out.
  • Your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts are pre-loaded and have videos and hashtags that will surely go viral within 20 minutes of them going online.

To paraphrase Oprah, each of us dream that every November and December we will be living our best fundraising life.

However, let’s be honest. year-end fundraising never looks that perfect.

It reminds me of something that happened to one of our clients last year. Every year, this client sends out lovely holiday cards with personal notes written by their Executive Director. Donors and VIPs love them. It’s a great way to send a personal thank you and it makes a demonstrable difference in donations.

But last year, the cards were ordered on thick glossy paper. They looked beautiful. But there was a problem.

The cards were too glossy to write on! So much for personal notes.

Now, this client had planned a lot of their year-end fundraising strategy early enough to rebound. But what if you’re still trying to decide what to do?

Maybe you only started at your job recently.

Perhaps a staff member quit and now you are picking up the slack.

What are the best credit cards for travel?

Or it could be that you are the only fundraiser and it has been impossible to get ready for year-end while also handling all of your normal fundraising responsibilities.

Trust me, I get it. It happens.

As fundraisers, we are nothing if not flexible. We always rise to the challenge.

For you, I have a last minute plan to help you get it done.Continue Reading

What Really Matters

what matters

This is not a typical post for me. But yesterday was not a typical day. Not for America and not in my family.

I’d like to talk about the intersections of those things and maybe help you to think about your own loved ones, your life, your community, and the lives you touch in a way that puts yesterday’s election results in perspective.

My mother is a feisty, irascible 89 year old – sharp as a tack. Tough as nails. <insert hackneyed phrase here>

She went in for surgery to contend with a pacemaker that needed to be removed and placed elsewhere.

My mom survived but whatever else could go wrong did. As I write this, she is on a respirator in the ICU at a great hospital and in the best adult day care. We can rest soundly knowing shes in great hands.

This is not what she would want. She had a DNR and every imaginable document to keep from prolonging her life but no document could keep doctors from doing what they do best – save lives. We are now going to take it day by day.

I’m not writing this for sympathy. I’m writing for perspective.Continue Reading

Feeling Overwhelmed? Try This…

feeling overwhelmed

Oh boy do I get it. Trust me.

The #1 reason people burn out in any job is because they’re constantly feeling overwhelmed. It’s the source of so much that’s negative in our day-to-day lives.

And for those of us in the nonprofit sector? The level of intensity and sense of urgency is just different. It’s more.

You know how it goes.

Every email feels urgent…

Everyone has a question that will take “just a second…”

You’ve got a high-maintenance donor who wants something you can’t give her. And somebody you need to apologize to….

Probably both.

In the episode of my podcast called, “A Day in the Life of an Executive Director” my friend Marea Chaveco spoke about having a plan and watching it go to (as my mother would say) “hell in a handbasket” the minute she walked through the door.

Even Marea, who is an AWESOME leader, admitted that even though she walked into work prepared to control her day, often her day controlled her. Talk about feeling overwhelmed! It’s really easy to do.

So today I want to offer you a quick win — three easy things you can do. Right now. Today. This week.

If you’re really feeling overwhelmed, be really proud of yourself if you do 2 out of 3.Continue Reading

It’s Time For a Nonprofit Reality TV Show

nonprofit reality tv give

Earlier this year, my friend Vu Le suggested on his hilarious (yet pointed) blog Nonprofit With Balls that we need a nonprofit-themed reality TV show.

He suggested titles like:

  • Dancing with Program Officers
  • Hell’s Charity
  • So You Think You Can Run a Nonprofit
  • America’s Funniest Fundraising Videos

I think Vu was serious. And I had some ideas of my own…

Maybe a drama such as CSI — an organization like the ACLU takes on a new case each week.

Or better yet, a nonprofit version of The Office that illustrates the absurdity of high-maintenance donors, board meetings where conversation goes in circles, and so on.

How great would that be?

My secret wish (not anymore) was for a show like Scandal and that central casting would come a-calling and knock on my door. After all, people have called me the Olivia Pope of the nonprofit space (sans the scandals) – “the nonprofit fixer.”

So I have some great news for Vu and everybody else in the nonprofit community.


A reality show? For real? (Did you just say “uh oh?”)

Well, I’ve already seen two completed episodes (I’ll reveal why below.) Here’s my take…

You need to watch it.

Here’s why…Continue Reading

The 14 Attributes of a Thriving Non-Profit

best non-profit organizations

Non-profits are messy. It’s true even for the best non-profit organizations out there.

Not enough money… Too many cooks… An abundance of passion…

Often on this blog I write about what non-profits are doing wrong and how to fix it. After all, “non-profits are messy” is more than just my tagline — it’s my mantra. And my mission is to help non-profits clean up the mess.

But today, I want to focus on what the best non-profit organizations are doing right. My hope is this will inspire you and set an aspirational vision. Maybe your non-profit does a bunch of these really well (I hope so!), but we all have something to work on.

There are fourteen things the best non-profit organizations do really well.

Here they are…Continue Reading

Joan Garry’s Blog: A Guided Tour

nonprofit leadership blog

As I near my blog-iversary (4 years next month), I find myself gobsmacked by the number of folks who write me each week and the volume of new subscribers who join my tribe.

Mostly humbled. Knowing that I can add some value, insights, levity or all of the above to your week and in so doing, help you to feel more confident, capable, less alone (and less crazy?) gives me such a sense of satisfaction.

Last week, as I tried to answer emails from subscribers, I realized that I can often point someone to a piece already on the site.

So using emails from my subscribers as a guidepost, this week I thought it might be useful to give you a guided tour of the blog by highlighting some of the posts tribe members have found most valuable.

I think there will be something useful for everyone.Continue Reading