Innovative Fundraising Strategies – from Rally 22

Innovative Fundraising Strategies – from Rally 22


20 September 2022


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


My session at Rally this year featured three innovative ideas that work, or would work, just about anywhere. Each one is scalable, each one is easy to understand, and each one, when I learned about it, blew my mind.

I have written about these ideas before. See Fundraising Outside the Lines from last year.

The first was Tradelands – land that is accepted as a gift or partial gift, but that has little ecological value. Instead, it is received for the purpose of selling it with the proceeds from the sale being available to protect lands that do have ecological value.

Easy to scale. Easy to understand. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

Because most land deals are complicated. They come with mortgages, multiple owners, distant geography, and other complexities. One of my co-presenters was Bruce Geiss at Realty Gift Fund (RGF). RGF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to liquidate complex tradeland transactions for other nonprofit organizations. They accept land as a nonprofit, prepare it for sale and then sell it, and send the residual check to the land trust (or other charity) directed by the donor.

What’s not to like about that?


The second was so called Call Gifts. A Call Gift is a pledge that is “called” when a project needing funding is contracted. Imagine securing a contract for sale and having ten donors already in play who have pledged support for it.

Easy to scale. Easy to understand. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

I think there are two reasons – the concept uses investment language that WE fundraisers are not familiar with, and therefore it doesn’t occur to us. And we don’t know our donors well enough to understand when it might be appropriate as a solicitation strategy. But both are relatively easy to address. And Call Gifts provide an important alternative to building an Opportunity Fund – one that is easier to buy from a donor perspective.

What’s not to like about that?


And the third was Legacy Match Campaigns (See also Funding Now, and Funding Later – Legacy Matching Grants from 2020). Here’s how it works: A donor makes a challenge grant according to parameters and rules that can be negotiated. The land trust launches a limited-term campaign through multiple channels to market the availability of the matching grant. From there, the premise works just like any other matching grant. Donors respond to the marketing and make planned gifts they have already committed known to the land trust in writing. Each gift that is so revealed triggers a release of funds from the matching grant until the matching grant is exhausted. The grant funds, once released, are available for use NOW.

Easy to scale. Easy to understand. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

Probably because it sounds more complicated than it is. If you have a planned giving page on your website, it’s relatively easy to include campaign language. It’s relatively easy to include it in social media posts and newsletter articles. And it’s fairly straightforward to prepare and send a mailing to all or part of your donor base.

Think about this: Most nonprofit watchers estimate that the average value of a planned gift is around $60,000. One of my co-presenters was a donor – Bob Ross from New York – who reports that the campaigns he has been a part of averaged much closer to $300,000 per bequest. In the end, it won’t matter much – a $10,000 challenge grant, released at $1,000 per gift will stimulate 60-300 times that amount in bequest giving. And the $10,000 challenge grant is available for use by the land trust NOW.

What’s not to like about that?


I am so grateful for the roles my co-presenters played during the session. In addition to Bruce and Bob, I was joined by Jordan Vana at Montana Land Reliance, Tim Abbott at Housatonic Valley Association, Carol Abrahamzon at Mississippi Valley Conservancy, and David Epstein at The Land Conservancy of New Jersey.

Everyone offered to share their notes and materials, and I am happy to help them do so.

Bruce’s Realty Gift Fund Notes can be found HERE.

Tim provided a sample prospectus for his Greenprint Pledge Fund program. You can find it HERE.

David’s TLC New Jersey Legacy Match Campaign Materials can be found HERE.

Carol’s Mississippi Valley Conservancy Legacy Match Campaign Materials can be found on her website HERE.

Bob writes very heartfelt thank-you letters to everyone who completes a legacy match campaign commitment. For reasons related to confidentiality, he sends these messages to the organization, and they pass them on to the donors. Carol has also provided a sample of a thank-you letter she sends HERE.


Hopefully, the seminar and subsequent workshop stimulated some new campaigns for those who participated.

And hopefully this blog will extend that impact.

Either way, I’d love to hear about your campaigns and results. And if you have any questions about this material, please get in touch.



Cheers, and Have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by NickyPe courtesy of Pixabay.



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1 Comment
  • Bruce Geiss | Realty Gift Fund
    Posted at 15:02h, 20 September

    David, I want to thank you for a truly great seminar at last week’s RALLY 2022. Three truly innovative ideas, all easy to enough grasp and implement, and all the sure source of millions in fundraising dollars with no risk. It was definitely a worthwhile 4 hours. Thanks, from all of us, for the effort to pull it all together. Bruce