10 Foolproof Fundraising Tactics
The economy … well … sucks at the moment! But does that really mean nobody is giving? Nope! Fundraising is alive and well and even thriving. I have 10 tips to help you get your share of the money that's going around.
But before I do that, I want to stress that while giving hasn't stopped, the mind-set in the economy definitely has shifted. People are more cautious about opening their wallets for anything and are bombarded by all sorts of commercial messages asking for their discretionary dollars. Unfortunately, this is a cut-throat, competitive market, and those that are most worthy don't necessarily get their fair share.
That means you have to step up your game when it comes to communicating with your potential donors. The good news is that you don't have to resort to any sort of unsavory, strong-arm tactics. You can be very competitive just by forging better relationships with your "market." Now, here are 10 ways to do that.
1. Practice donor love
A key concept in business says that a loyal customer is worth 10 times more than a new customer. Develop a sound stewardship system that ensures your thank-you letters get out the door within 48 hours. Communicate with your donors on a weekly or monthly basis, and keep it consistent. Donors prefer to be kept notified on a timely basis in a simple manner rather than receive a glossy magazine publication (that makes them wonder what the heck you're doing with their money) once every two years. A two- to four-page quarterly newsletter is ideal. No e-mail newsletter? It's time to start!
Set aside time every week to phone and visit key donors one on one. Don't make that age-old mistake of only querying your donor database for your largest donors; pull up your most loyal donors and thank them — profusely. Survey them, create a low-cost event to honor them, ask them for their opinions on your legacy campaign mailing … you get the picture!
2. Revisit your story
What's your organization's emotional hook? Spend time with your clients, program staff and board members. Call a foundation. Talk to your board members, clients, staff, foundation funders and individual funders to find your emotional hook. Bring your mission to life.
3. Think 'multiple streams of income'
No organization should receive 90 percent of its funding from a single source. How can you grow your online giving, individual giving and foundation giving? With a solid and engaged volunteer base, even smaller nonprofit organizations can host modest (but profitable) events, solicit donations, operate neighborhood thrift stores or sell on eBay. Many smaller organizations have their own used-book stores, bringing in $25,000 to $50,000 extra yearly. Get creative!
4. Learn to use social media to engage
Twitter and Facebook are not broadcast mediums. They are, however, perfect tools of engagement. Question your donors and prospective donors regularly to get their input. Establish genuine dialogue on Facebook. Invest in the time it takes to grow a social-media fan base.
5. Stay the course
Develop a balanced, thoughtful fundraising plan that includes realistic goals for grants and corporate support, individual support, program support, and events. Plan for "multiple streams of income," yet with an eye to maximizing those activities that bring the highest return on investment.
6. When it comes to foundation funding, research, research, research
Remember that foundations are created with the sole purpose of supporting philanthropic causes — regardless of the state of the economy. To maintain their legal status, foundations must donate an amount equal to 5 percent of their assets averaged over five years. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has reported that small to midsized foundations actually have increased their giving during these challenging times to offset decreases in giving from other sources.
Make it a practice to routinely scope out new sources of foundation funding. I was recently asked, "Well, after so many years, don't you run out of new potential foundation funders?" The answer is a resounding, "No!" Not if you keep your eyes and ears open and engage in weekly research.
Develop a system where you send proposals or letters of inquiry to new foundations on a weekly basis. Work on building relationships with foundation funders.
7. Consider monthly giving
When discussing monthly giving programs, international fundraiser Ken Burnett has said, "Unless you can get a job as CEO of a failed bank, there's probably no surer way to reliably secure large sums of money at regular intervals for your cause."
If you have donors who give you $1,000, $100, even $25 every year, they're prime candidates for a monthly giving program. The best book I've read on monthly giving is "Hidden Gold" by Harvey McKinnon. No need to think of this as a huge endeavor when you're just starting out. Introduce it with your next annual appeal — as a P.S. … talk to your bank about an electronic funds transfer option. Monthly giving has been a popular tool in the U.K. for years. Implement one now. Give donors the option of monthly credit card or checking account debits.
8. Retain staff
Retaining staff is a key component of a successful fundraising office. I've worked with nonprofit organizations that have had — seriously — five development directors in three years! How can an organization have any kind of continuity with donors with that kind of record? Staff your organization with creative, quality individuals, and do your best to keep them. And if you're not sending your development staff to workshops, classes and seminars, you're doing your organization a grave disservice. Training enables and accelerates innovation. It's good for the employee and the employer.
9. Be unique
Remember, even though you have a worthy cause, you're still in a competitive marketplace. Don't emulate the majority of your peers by relying on the sacred cows of fundraising. If you follow industry norms, the best you can hope for is normal results (which in most cases are pretty lousy). In order to have above-average or spectacular results, you need to be willing to break from what everyone else is doing (zig when everyone zags). Be bold.
10. Create daily habits
Consistency matters! Build "the little things that matter" into your daily routine. If you're at a loss for what those little thing are, start by saying thank you to one donor every day and you'll get the hang of it. FS
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.