What is Responsive Fundraising?

Responsive fundraising puts the donor at the center of fundraising and grows giving through personalized donor journeys that respond to the needs of each individual. The responsive approach builds trust and loyalty through personalized engagement.

It’s the way to treat ALL your donors like major donors.

Ready to learn more about applying Responsive Fundraising principles?
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Your Donors Have Changed

The fundraising models that drive nonprofits were designed for a world that no longer exists.

The ways people communicate, connect, and learn have changed dramatically in the last 20 years. A new digital world has emerged that is bending over backwards to gain - and keep - our attention. This new world is marked by constant connectedness, hyper-personalized streams of communication, and online communities inhabited by members of our own tribe.

Donors in this new world want to know that their time and money are truly making an impact. They want to give as part of a community. They want to be part of a movement.

At the same time, today’s giver has become less trusting of impersonal institutions. They feel alienated by nonprofit-centric direct response fundraising. They EXPECT personalized, authentic connection to your cause.

But most nonprofits struggle to provide the community and connection their donors desire.

A Generosity Crisis

Small and mid-level donors have declined by 25% in the last decade. Rank and file donors are disappearing!

The Loss of Everyday Donors

  • New donors decreased by 19% in 2017 and 7% in 2018
  • 76% of new donors to will never go on to give again
  • Nonprofits lost 5.9M donors ($5.8B) in fiscal 2016-17


What’s Causing the Crisis?

Our current crisis started in the mid-2000’s. In fact, there was an 18% drop in the number of individuals who gave to nonprofits between 2006 and 2015.

It’s no coincidence that this timeframe corresponds with the rise of Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), the iPhone (2007) and a host of software platforms designed to deliver a barage of personalized marketing messages.

This drop in donors is the direct result of nonprofits’ inability to raise support from everyday donors who have come to EXPECT a deeper personal connection to their cause.

And yet everyday donors are the heart of nonprofit giving. They provide sustained revenue, volunteerism, and advocacy that your nonprofit needs in order to flourish.

Unfortunately, today’s nonprofits are handcuffed to outdated fundraising models that reserve personal connections for a select few major donors. These models force fundraisers to rely on impersonal, unresponsive fundraising tactics for everyone else. Instead of creating connection, traditional tactics alienate your donors and create distance between the donor and their impact.

The days of sending impersonal direct response marketing and hoping for a 3% response rate are over. This model has become intolerable for your donors.

We need a new approach. We need to reimagine fundraising.

Responsive Fundraising is now available in hardback!

Learn more about the #1 book in the nonprofit category on Amazon and get your copy today.

“Responsive Fundraising is a must-have for nonprofits seeking to build authentic relationships with donors. Gabe and team provide practical, technology-forward tactics for listening to your donors and then building personal connections at scale.”

Nicole Johansson
VP Advancement, OneHope, Inc.

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Responsive Fundraising

A Brief History of Fundraising
Models Built on Impersonal Solicitation

PRE 1950's
Community Organized

  • Localized
  • Self-organized
  • Collaborative
  • Personal action
  • Door to door
  • Small meetings
  • Canvasing

Direct Response

  • National
  • Industrial
  • Undifferentiated
  • RFM Segmentation
  • Mass mailings
  • Telefundraising
  • TV/Radio

EARLY 2000's
Online Fundraising

  • Direct response on the internet
  • Impersonal
  • Email blasts
  • Generic forms
  • Display ads
  • Social spray

2020 and Beyond
What’s Next?

Trust not total reach

Pull not push marketing
Transparent/closed loop

Relationships not transactions

Responsive Fundraising

Responsive fundraising responds to the needs of each individual, builds trust, and breaks down the barrier between the donor and the impact they are creating.

Instead of blasting out impersonal mass communication that interrupts your donors and steals their attention, responsive fundraising combines modern technology, data intelligence, and donor-centric giving experiences to foster personalized conversations with every donor.

Connecting with each person in a contextual way allows you to suggest the right next step, at the right time, increasing donor loyalty. This grows generosity and helps you do more good.

The responsive approach to fundraising provides the personal connection and meaning that donors desire. The result is recurring generosity at a sustainable cost to the nonprofit.

In other words, Responsive Fundraising allows you to step into this new hyper-connected world and build authentic relationships with everyday donors.

The Responsive Fundraising Framework

Responsive fundraising is your nonprofit’s growth strategy. It helps you grow relationships, grow giving, and grow the good you’re doing in our world.


As you connect with donors you’ll begin to learn more about them. This learning can happen directly through conversations or indirectly via social listening, website activity, and email opens and clicks. The more you listen, the more you begin to understand areas of interest, giving opportunities, and how each persons wants to connect with the cause.
Responsive fundraising is fueled by these signals and equips you to deepen relationships as you move each donor through a journey with your cause. The result is increased donor loyalty, more sacrificial giving and, most importantly, an army of advocates who are intimately connected to your cause.

Listen Tactics

  • Social Media Listening
  • Surveys/Forms to Gather Insignts
  • Geo-Targeting
  • Relational & Wealth Scoring


Giving is deeply personal and your engagement should be too. Regardless of the channel (website, email, mail, or the phone) or medium (in-person or digitally) you want to connect with donors in a responsive way that is one-to-one, contextual, and collaborative.

Responsive fundraising let’s you personalize the experience every time you connect with each donor

Instead of responding to our donor’s intent and desires, traditional fundraising is driven by what we want the donor to do for us. Most direct response fundraising is built on this unresponsive model. When a nonprofit sends a generic appeal to all their contacts, and then directs them all to respond in the exact same way, the response rates are typically shockingly low. As a result, the nonprofit ends up alienating (or irritating) most of their constituents. While a few say “yes”, the rest are pushed away due to irrelevance and seek out other opportunities. This approach is a fossil from a prior world before attention was fractured and power shifted from nonprofits to individuals.

Responsive fundraising ensures you connect with the right donor at the right time with the right message.
Responsive fundraising let’s you personalize the experience every time you connect with every donor. When they visit your website, attend an event, receive an email or get a phone call each person should feel like they are part of an ongoing conversation with your organization. This builds connection and increases trust.

This is where new technology (data-driven CRM and automation) and a responsive mindset work together to help you connect personally with all your donors

Connect Tactics

  • Marketing Automation
  • Integrated Multi-Channel Approach
  • Personalization by Persona/Behavior
  • Donor-Centric Gated Content


Once you’ve established trust with your donors by listening and connecting in personal ways, you have an opportunity to suggest giving options that are the best fit for each individual.

Suggestions don’t always have to include a financial ask. Many times the best suggestions include learning experiences for the donor, opportunities for donors to volunteer their time, or invitations to use their influence to invite others in their tribe to connect.

Responsive gift suggestions allow the donor to feel like they are receiving just as much value as the organization.

Your suggestions are a response to what you know, what’s the next right thing, and is dynamic as you listen and connect further with each donor. Responsive gift suggestions allow the donor to feel like they are receiving just as much value as the organization.

Responsive fundraising acknowledges that everyone has unique value and something to give, instead of generic asks that push everyone to do or give the same thing.

Suggest Tactics

  • Responsive Gift Arrays
  • Project Asks Tied to Donor Passions
  • Data-Driven Non-Financial Asks
  • Advocacy or Peer-to-Peek Asks

Next Steps for Responsive Fundraising

The world has changed and Responsive Fundraising is the modern nonprofit’s path to growth in our connected world. If you’re ready to take the next steps to toward building better relationships with your donors then we’ve provided a few great resources for Responsive Fundraisers.

Buy Responsive Fundraising on Amazon

Download the Free Responsive Fundraising Blueprint