Category Archives: Development Strategy

Development Email Calendar with Production Deadlines MVP

Minimum Viable Product: Development Email Calendar with Production Deadlines

The goal of this article is to outline a barebones development email calendar with production processes and deadlines included. These emails are in addition to a Welcome Series which is automatically sent to any new subscribers, and may also be sent to current readers if they have not already received a Welcome Series. An article on that topic will be forthcoming.

The strategy starts with two essential email types (active fundraising and relationship building emails) and then adds in a third email (Fireside Chats) to move donors into a more active relationship with the organization.

Relationship building emails can include passive donate options -a Support Org Button at the bottom of the email- or exclude the donate option and focus entirely on the primary CTA for the reader. I personally like to pair relationship-building emails with fundraising asks later on down the line. This is a common strategy seen in Inbound Marketing and the NextAfter/MECLabs systems.

Calendar Rules

2–3 emails a month (1-2 Relationship Building, 1 Ask)

No more than 1 email should go out a week. In the case of multiple audiences, this rule should also apply. -EG if a supporter is also a client, they should not receive an email from both lists on the same day. Depending on the size of the multiple audiences, I’d recommend moving those emails to a third day and send out emails to both mutually exclusive lists on the ideal day).

Production on emails should be completed 1-2 days before the email date. (Note: Many email platforms will not allow you to send an email in a shorter time than 24 hours.)

Master calendar should be constructed to include all known email dates. Lists should be mutually exclusive to allow multiple lists to email on the optimum dates.
(Current research indicates Sunday evening, Tuesday morning, Thursday afternoon).
Emails that are included on multiple lists should defer to their primary lists and receive the second list email on a second date

Email Elements

All Development emails have the following elements:

  • Type: Relationship Building (Ask/No Ask), Donate, or Fireside Chat
  • CTA:  Donate or Edify
  • CTA Type: Survey, download free content, article to read,
  • Link: URL that the email will forward to
  • Writer: The person who is actively writing the piece. This person will also likely be the signer but in larger orgs likely won’t be.
  • Signer: This is the person who is putting their name to the email. Will likely be the org’s president, a department director, or a staff member who has high prestige
  • Editor: This is the person who reviews the piece, tests the links, and likely schedules the email to go out. This person should not be both the writer and signer. This is to make sure that at least two people review the piece before it goes live.
  • UTM Code: Useful for tracking the email’s performance

Special Type of Email (Fireside Chat)
Fireside Chats – This email is written by the president -or at least in the president’s voice- and specifically focus on financial supporters to build a relationship with them so that they see themselves as financial partners in the organization’s work.
This relationship is achieved by tying the mission, vision, values, and principles of the organization with products that the organization currently produces.

The short-term goal of the Fireside Chat email type is to edify the reader -mainly financial supporters- with content that will help them to more closely identify with the organization’s mission and give the reader a real understanding of what the organization does and accomplishes.
The long-term goal is that the reader identifies with the organization and feels a personal sense of ownership over the great work that the organization does. The financial supporter will feel a sense of pride and familiarity with the organization’s clients and the financial supporter will understand that they are not just passive investors but active partners in the organization’s work.

A note about language. While financial supporters can be called donors, I prefer to frame development as about converting financial supporters who passively invest in the organization into financial partners who share the organization’s values and see themselves as actively involved in promoting the organization’s work. You can read more about donors as financial partners here.

The Calendar

Month 1.

Week 1.

Week 2.

Week 3.

Week 4.

Week 5 (When applicable).

Month 2.

Week 1.

Week 2.

Week 3.

Week 4.

Week 5 (When applicable).

Month 3.

Week 1.

Week 2.

Week 3.

Week 4.

Week 5 (When applicable).

Month 4.

Week 1.

Week 2.

Week 3.

Week 4.

Week 5 (When applicable).

Month 5.

Week 1.

Week 2.

Week 3.

Week 4.

Week 5 (When applicable).

Month 6.

Week 1.

Week 2.

Week 3.

Week 4.

Week 5 (When applicable).

Month 7.

Week 1.

Week 2.

Week 3.

Week 4.

Week 5 (When applicable).

MM — PODO & Moves (September 2019)

MM — PODO & Moves


Prospect Identified

Qualify wealth

Leads Mountain

Identification Stage —
*Minimum wealth (Measured by Wealth Screening tool score, other arbitrary markers)[Manual at first, then use integration with DB & Wealth Screening Tool];
*If in the News, move to the top of the List(If the PODO is in the news, Org President can use that fact as the lede for their letter of introduction. IE “I had the pleasure of seeing you on the Fox and Friends show. I especially appreciated when you said…”);
*If a celeb, earmark for qualification as a potential Partner;
*Earmark if the PODO has previous interactions with Org (EG has liked Org’s products, attended event, has had interactions with Org Executives or staff);

Qualification Stage –

*Add PODO to Org database and mark as a PODO.
*If already in DB, mark the record as renewed for attention.
*Clearly mark when the PODO has no interactions with Org and mark them as Do Not Contact until they have responded.

Stakeholder Checks — Stakeholder Checks: *Events= near an upcoming Org event. *Foundations = Connections to a mission-aligned Foundation or a private foundation[foundations whose missions are completely up to the foundation stakeholders];
*Org President = Unique connections to President, Org connections, High Prestige, Potential Partnership; *Partnerships/External Relations = Shared mission/orgs, previous connections to PODO;
*Donor Advisors= Connections to a Donor Advisory through which contact must go

Categorize PODO Type
Attempt to Identify the Best Approach for outreach by identifying PODO’s political, religious, and biographic information, + their connections to the Org/Org President, and established giving/projects in the Org’s mission.

Types of PODOs:
*Low Dollar ($1-$99);
*Mid Dollar ($100-$250)
*High Dollar ($251-$750-$999);
*Major ($1k+);
*President Only (Unique connections to President, Org connections, High Prestige, Potential Partnership);
*Foundations (Connection to a mission-aligned foundation or a private foundation);
*Donor Advisers=Connections to a Donor Advisory through which contact must go

Recommended First Moves:
*Event-Invite to Org Event if PODO lives near an upcoming Org Event;
*Send Org President Letter of Introduction with a point of connection/interest[EG a pleasure to meet you at the Big Whigs Gala/I read your recent article in the New York Times…] and a Call-to-Action[EG I often visit Missouri and would love to meet you when I am there next…];
*Send Collateral []

Cultivation Stage

Cultivation Moves:

· Intro Pack with customized Standard Letter

· Invite to Event (Via Letter/Email/Phonecall

· Invite to Meet — In PODO’s city, at Org’s office, at an event both parties publicly know they will attend,

· Phone Call — Phonecalls can follow after a written or digital invitation

· Email — Use standardized emails. Lowest expected return rate.

· Invitations are best when sent through a mutual friend/connection.

Packet Content Options:

Standard — Org publication, Book written by Org President/Org Academic, Letter, Remit(Not recommend)

Low Cost — Org publication, Book Request Form, Letter,

High Cost — Org publication, Book written by Org President/Org Academic, Letter, High-cost Org related Collateral,

PODO Goals

Goal Setting Stage

1. Immediate Move: Low$/High$=Convert PODO to estimated dollar range, Major Gift: Make connection & start dialogue, VIP= Make connection & start dialogue

2. 1–2 Year Goal: Convert PODO to estimated dollar range or initiate diologue.

3. Long-term Goal: Create meaningful relationship and dialogue, empower the PODO to create meaningful social change via Org’s Programs,

Audience Categories
Once Standard Letter is drafted, edited, and corrected to account for feedback, develop audience categories that use modified language to connect Org’s Mission, Values, & Projects to the PODO’s personal interests and passions.

Speculative Categories: Libertarian, Conservative, Liberal, Progressive, Religious (Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim), Org Mission oriented [EG Cares about Civics, the Homeless, Legal Reform, etc].

The body of the letter will remain the same but will reference different elements of the Org’s Missions and Values and different outcomes from the Org’s operations depending on the motivations of the PODO. When in doubt, use the standard letter.

Moves Management

Current Donor Audit

Triage all Donors according to their gift amounts and then process through the PODO qualification & research process.


1. All Major Donors, Foundation Contacts

2. High Dollar Donors/High capacity Low Dollar Donors

3. Mid-Level Donors

4. Low Dollar Donors (Qualification only)

Moves Management Goals

4. Immediate Move:

5. Year Goal: Raise Donor to next highest dollar range. EG Raise a $50 annual gift to a $100 dollar gift. Raise a $100 dollar gift to a $250, $250 to $500, and so on.

6. Long-term Goal:

First Time Gift Moves:

· Receipt/Thank you Letter (Combined into the same letter)

· Thank you Call/Card

· Intro packet to Org’s Mission, Projects, and

o Low-cost Collateral: Org stickers (Maybe?), Pocket Constitutions (Every org has them), other low-cost & small piece of collateral

· Donor Research Process (Turn-around should be 1–2 weeks)

· If Email is available, subscribe them to an email campaign

Yearly Moves: Start with 6 moves, then move up to 12 moves. Half of the moves should be special/customized while the other half of the moves will be generic and standard for org outreach. All yearly calendars should change year to year. Rely on mass produced comms/techniques to manage large groups.

January-February — Thank You Letter/Call/Card for last year’s gift(s)

March-April — Org Publication: Either Donor Publication or Org Focused

May-June –

July-August — Holiday Card

September-October –

November-December — Year End Appeal

Optional Moves:

· Invite to event in their area

· Invite them to tour the Org’s facilities.

· Send a card during a holiday relevant to the Org’s mission

· Survey/Checking in call


Email Campaigns

Donor Intro Campaign — 4 week email campaign that introduces the Org’s leadership, Mission and Values, & Demos the types of work and impact Org’s Programs creates.


Week 1. Email written in Org President’s name/voice introducing the Org’s Mission & Values and establishes what to expect over the next 3 weeks. Include a kindly written invitation to unsubscribe from the email with an unsub page that asks for feedback on preferred means of comms etc.

Week 2. Email written by Programs with examples of the org’s events and resources. Make it visceral and meaningful. Focus on communicating their experiences and the changes created rather than the raw stats.

Week 3. Email written

Week 4.

The Types of People You Work With from a Development Standpoint

Know your audiences, your clients, your partners, and your products

Development is more than fundraising because development is about creating relationships with your financial partners and developing each relationship to the point that your financial supporters see themselves as partners in your work. Development done right is finding people with a desire to see positive change and have the financial resources and bringing them together with the professionals who have dedicated their lives to making that change happen.

Development is not fundraising. Development is finding and cultivating partners who will support your work because they see your work as their own.

Audiences are anyone who will see your work or publications and is liable to interact with you directly or indirectly.
Audiences include people who like you, people who hate you, and people you want to like you.

Your audiences are a bigger topic than what fits into the question of development communications and I’d recommend tying your development comms strongly into your program and general public centered communications strategies. This is because what a donor needs to hear could very easily conflict with what a client needs to hear.

Many of these conflicts can be rectified by pre-emptive conversations but even if they can’t be cleared up, you need to know about it. As an example, the conservative-leaning strategy of rallying your donors around the scary idea that all college professors are Communists is a bad move if your clients are all college professors. The same can be said for your partners, for instance saying that Congress needs to be abolished is a hard sell if you frequently partner with Congressmen and their staff.
Point being, talk to your other departments, make it clear that everyone needs to be flexible and collaborate but that you Will Not sell out your clients or partners.

Clients — The people who your nonprofit serves. Donors and financial supporters are not clients because your services aren’t geared towards them. You might have an overlap between partners and clients, but that should only be because those people qualify for both categories for different reasons. IE, a lawyer can also be a donor because she gives to your work, but you shouldn’t try to convert her into a donor just because she receives your services. You aren’t in sales, you’re in development.

Clients really are the purview of programs and the executive leadership, so development should only really ever interact with clients in ways that communicate why they matter to financial partners so that the financial partners understand why your work matters.

You technically can try to convert clients into financial supporters but I’d recommend not doing that unless you have a really good reason to do so. If your clients are all billionaires, sure, go ahead and try to work out a fundraising model for them. But even then, you’ll want to make certain these clients still feel like you’re there to serve their needs.

Partners — Partners really come into two separate types which I like to lump together because of how you want to focus their attention. Those categories are financial partners -or supporters- and your non-financial partners.
Financial partners are all your donors, from the general housefile donors who give $5 dollars a year to all the way to your major donors and grant-making foundations.
Non-financial partners are really closer to your programmatic partners who work with your programs and external relations efforts. You don’t ask them for financial support but they do support your work with expertise, their networks, and through collaboration.

Now, I’ve said that these two types of partners are different but your secondary goal for financial partners should be to help them see themselves as your partners in your work. You want them to feel a sense of ownership and collaboration for your work. This is only partly to keep them as financial supporters as you will want these people to become brand ambassadors, volunteers, and to generally feel that they are a part of your team and not just the lonely aunt you selfishly ask for money and Christmas presents from.

Your major givers and foundations will likely already feel like they are your partners in the non-financial sense because they are actively discussing your projects, your goals, and helping you to set higher ambitions. So, keep doing that with them. And, try to figure out ways to communicate your high-touch communications to your general supporters in a way that makes them feel like a part of your community as well. The volunteer who shows up every month to help fold letters in your direct mail is actively taking a part in your work and you should be sure that they feel like they’re a part of the team, because they are.

Product — This is the category I like to place anyone who is served through your services to your clients. If your clients are doctors, the products are their patients. If your clients are lawyers, your products are their clients and laws, and so forth.
Your supporters will likely care more about the products than your clients, and so one of your supporter communication goals is to help them see how your clients serve the products.
It’s a complicated bit of distinction that I wouldn’t put too much thought into communicating. Supports shouldn’t need to understand these distinctions per se, although major investors will likely appreciate that backend insight, especially if it helps them see how your organization is different.