On November 28 – Giving Tuesday – many nonprofits sent emails asking for a gift. But frankly, by the end of the day, it was overwhelming, between the volume of organizations and multiple emails from some of them. The postal mailbox isn’t much better, stuffed with retail catalogs and fundraising appeals.

For nonprofits this month, the challenge is breaking through the clutter in a way that makes your organization stand out in a positive way to a donor or prospect. Some of the best ways to do this have been the standbys – a live stamp (preferably first class) and handwritten envelope that is a non-standard size for mail, and a great photo and compelling offer in the subject line (Double your gift! Multiple your impact!) of an email.

But even that is more difficult. In a recent stack of 21 appeal letters received over 3 days, 15 of them had envelopes that were not the standard #10, and 9 had a live stamp instead of a meter or indicia. Clearly the word is out in terms of ways to maybe get more response.

And email isn’t any better. Almost half of the emails I received on Giving Tuesday offered to match, double, even triple a gift.

The reality is that our goal needs to be quality, not just quantity. Building relationships has almost become a cliché in fundraising, but it is the bottom line: donors that feel a connection, even friendship, with an organization are more likely to remain loyal.

So stand out. Call a donor and say thank you.  Send out an email holiday wish to your top supporters – or be really radical and send out one to those who complained the loudest and the longest in 2017. Add a handwritten note on the bottom of the receipt, even to donors who aren’t giving the largest amounts.

In Marketing for Success, Charlie Cook wrote, “Want to stand out from the competition?

Stop doing what everyone else is doing.” That’s great advice for fundraisers. Too often we watch what others are doing – especially the big, “successful” nonprofits and we try to copy at a scale we can afford.

But maybe we ought to spend the last few weeks of 2017 asking, “How can we stand out in 2018? What can we do that is different?” Yes, “different” is scary. It may not work. But figure out how much can you afford to risk. It’s not about taking chances and wasting money; it’s about judiciously investing in new ideas to try to find the next breakthrough that will make your organization stand out and succeed.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to take a few risks in 2018. Choose carefully and evaluate everything, including the failures. Just doing what everyone else is doing is expensive because it’s getting harder and harder to be seen. What’s the big idea you have that might just revolutionize your fundraising?