Surprise & Delight: Build support for the world you want year-round

It’s New Year’s Eve which is Happy Fundraising Day at most charities in North America.

This year, and in many years past, my agency helped shape, prep and deliver end of year fundraising campaigns for some of the biggest nonprofits and campaigns in the country. It is work we’re proud of and work we learned tremendous lessons from stewarding. I love learning curves and I find with end of year giving campaigns, there is a challenge in the gift: it seems, the more you do, the fewer lesson and surprises there are to uncover in the process.

While I’m personally energized experimenting with other forms for donor engagement and encourage organizations to cultivate vibrant donor communities to evolve away from relying on emailing fundraising, I do have a deep appreciation for what 12/31 – the biggest nonprofit fundraising day of the year – means to charities all across the country. And I hope you do, as well.

One of the ways we’re walking the walk  and pushing ourselves to learn more and become better with the clients we support with digital fundraising is to change the process by changing the questions we ask.

For organizations, how do you surprise and delight your donors?

For myself, just as Sabrina, person/donor who cares about the world, I ask myself: how do  I surprise and delight the causes and organizations I care about?

The answer to that question for myself did not look like just sitting down and writing a one-time donation at the end of the year. I love talking to people about the organizations I think are dope, I love betting on brilliant leaders, I love investing in solutions.


I am also an introvert! And I actually super hate repeating myself!

So the answer to that question looked a lot like finding ways to share about organizations, leaders and solutions I care about in ways that were also personally energizing and delightful. The reason I’m sharing this now is because the most thoughtful way I’ve gone about this is simply creating a new Out-Of-Office autoresponder. We are constantly met with OOO replies in the weeks between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s– that all say the same thing, ‘Hi, I’m not here and I’m not reading this. Kthxbai’ it is the modern voicemail message prompt no one bothers to listen to, let alone return but we all politely indulge.

Why don’t we use OOOs as way to, I don’t know, actually communicate meaningful information?

So I started sharing about causes and issues I care about using my personal Out-of-Office autoresponder. Here’s the one I used for Eid this year…

The medium (writing) energized me, the challenge delighted me, the responses surprised me and made my heart genuinely happy. The organizations I linked to in the auto-responder all reported donations from the simple auto-message.

It’s really amazing to see the outcomes possible when you are presented with the challenge to surprise and delight.

“We need to talk about an injustice…”

Quick post tonight, I am finishing a day running around NYC that ended at the Sidney Hillman Awards. It was the highlight of my day to watch so many friends I admire who grind in public service journalism be recognized. The biggest joy of all was watching Bryan Stevenson accept his award for his work leading the Equal Justice Initiative and Jelani Cobb be honored for his undisputed dopeness.

My phone died before the night was over. After it ran out of battery, I sat in the auditorium in the New York Times Center, a digital nerd scribbling notes and quotes with pen and paper in the dark. I caught myself and thought, “I feel like I’m on the Oregon Trail…” closed my notebook and turned my full attention to the ceremony.