New words for your fundraising dictionary

leadershipYou know your CGAs from your CRTs and you can tell a LYBUNT from a SYBUNT at ten paces. But the world of development is always evolving, and there are new terms you need to know. Here are some of the new ones I’ve heard lately.

Fundcrushing: Coined by Jeff Brooks, author of How to Turn Your Words Into Money, fundcrushing is “the evil cousin of fundraising.” It’s when you scare donors away by making a problem seem huge and insurmountable. I’m overwhelmed thinking about the thousands of people who need my help. But one? I can make a difference for one person.

Listen to Jeff talk about fundcrushing on his Fundraising Is Beautiful podcast and stay tuned for our interview with Jeff coming soon on the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Fundraising Voices podcast:

image from fundraisingisbeautiful.comLeadership phase: A new and more accurate way to refer to the quiet phase of a campaign. Mark Drozdowski sums up the problem with the old terms in his definition of quiet phase from “A Fund Raiser’s Lexicon”: “Also known as the ‘private phase,’ this term refers to the early part of a campaign, during which fund raisers tell as many prospects as possible to keep news of the campaign quiet.”

Sticky Donors: They don’t increase, they don’t decrease. These are donors give the same amount every year…they are stuck. It’s worth keeping an eye on this group: these donors tend to be extremely loyal, with high renewal rates year to year. Experiment and analyze the data to see which of these donors has the best potential for increased gifts and which may find continued upgrade asks off-putting.

Liarbunts: These are people who pledge every year, often through phonathon, without ever making a gift. We might more politely refer to these as “serial pledgers.” They are indicating some type of interest in your organization (after all, they wanted to say yes!), so it’s our job to find out how to remove potential obstacles and translate that impulse into action. For ideas about what to do with these folks, see this post about fulfillment.

Liarbunts or "serial pledgers" show interest in pledging but need obstacles removed to become fundraising donors.

Donor relations: Okay, donor relations isn’t a new term, but the distinction between donor relations and stewardship was made clear to me by Lynne Wester, the Donor Relations Guru. You steward the gift, you relate to and engage the donor.

Mobile-hostile: You know that your website and online giving page should be mobile-friendly. And while that’s the ideal, it can sometimes be a slow process to get your organization there. Here’s a more attainable goal: make sure your online giving site isn’t impossible for cell phone users to navigate. I’m talking to you, tiny fonts and enormous, screen-monopolizing images.

mobile optimization for fundraising

With more and more web users browsing on smart phones, fundraisers need to make sure their web and digital communications are not “mobile hostile” if not mobile friendly.

Recurring/Regular/Sustainer: These are all ways to refer to donors who give repeatedly by credit card or electronic fund transfer, whether weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. Many organizations choose to focus on monthly giving. Whatever you call it, these are important gifts to pursue.

Plannual giving: Planned giving and annual giving are thought of as different ends of the development spectrum, but there are definite synergies between the two. Loyal annual donors tent to be the best planned gift prospects, and there are many ways to integrate the work of these departments.

Are there any other new terms we should know? Comment below or email me at

Dawn Stever
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Dawn Stever

Vice President and Consultant at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Dawn Stever joined Ruffalo Noel Levitz as a Vice President and Senior Consultant in Fundraising Management in August 2014. She brings 11 years of experience in higher education annual giving. Dawn works with nonprofit organizations in the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada to design and implement successful annual giving programs. Her experience includes in-depth strategic planning, new program development, frontline fundraising, collaboration with high-level volunteers, crowdfunding, giving days, and phonathon management.
Dawn Stever
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