What's Driving Your Fundraising?
One nonprofit that has mastered this art is charity: water. On its website, one can download a banner ad for a Facebook site or engage friends through individualized campaigns from “fishing for clean water” to “arm wrestling for clean water.” These efforts exemplify ways to build donors into advocates, champions and ambassadors of the cause, rather than simply viewing them as ATM machines.
Whether on a website, in a direct-mail piece or at an event, any fundraising strategy will fall short of its potential unless it simultaneously builds an organization’s brand and reinforces its core message, thereby connecting the charity with beneficiaries and supporters. Every nonprofit should:
- Understand how it is perceived by the public;
- Know its “brand story” and have a plan to shape public perception in alignment with that story;
- Have a clearly defined brand architecture — knowing its stakeholders and how each one can take action to reinforce the brand; and
- Ensure the brand links to donor-engagement strategies.
An investment of time, energy and capital in building and communicating its brand will ensure the nonprofit is calling the public to its cause, not constantly pushing direct-mail pieces at them. This investment multiplies engagements across various activities — volunteering, giving, advocating and others. World Vision’s brand strategy took nearly two years to build out in the early 2000s and paid for itself as the charity grew its revenues more than 300 percent in fewer than nine years.
All fundraising activities should not only pay for themselves, but also generate appropriate return on investment and be aligned with organizational priorities. Industry standards for fully leveraged ratios are 7:1 to 12:1 for major donors; 5:1 to 7:1 for midrange donors; and 3:1 to 5:1 for mass donors.
Social-enterprise leaders whose organizations are not achieving these numbers must ask themselves: “Are ratios of yields to programs (revenues less expenses) on my organization’s fundraising activities acceptable?” If the answer is no, those leaders should consider several actions, including robust integration of online and offline strategies; new-donor treatment streams to increase second — and successive — gifts; and stronger stories, images and video content to improve donors’ awareness and understanding of the charity’s mission.