50 of Your Innovative Fundraising Ideas, Part 2
Last week, I shared with you Part 1 of the 54 responses I got to my request for ideas for innovation in fundraising. (If you'll recall, a while back, I referenced a spirited discussion I had with a long-time fundraising consultant and, as a result, asked you all to send me your ideas that demonstrate just how innovative the fundraising sector is.)
Here are the remaining ideas (actually we seem to have ended up with just 50). Some may seem new, and some may seem like ideas we know are right but are skills that perhaps have simply fallen out of practice. I've divided them by categories and arranged them alphabetically.
20. This isn't an idea, but what I do each year to ensure my team is innovative. Normally, fundraising departments increase their financial goals marginally each year. I never do. In my last seven years managing the e-philanthropy and emerging philanthropy team at my nonprofit, my least aggressive year I planned for a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Every year, regardless of the market, we meet and exceed our budget. Why? I believe that true innovation can only happen when your back is up against the wall and you know that if we do everything that we have done previously to the best of our abilities, we still won't come even close to the goal. Even though it is a little stressful, it is so energizing. Every day we have brainstorming meetings. We innovate. We will try and test anything. It is a lot of fun.
21. A nonprofit will never grow more than its employees grow. Without employees, there is nothing else for many nonprofits. Invest in the staff and watch the organization's success soar. Skill sets are fine, but personal growth is what will make the most magic happen for a nonprofit.
22. Developing a fundraising committee for all clubs on campus to work with me, to learn more about fundraising and how to do it.
23. It is the staff's responsibility to educate the board. Many executive directors and development directors sit back and complain about how little their board does, yet they do nothing to support their board. Most board members don't have a clue as to what they should be doing.
24. Speak to someone in a career transition (aka unemployed) or college students about a career in the nonprofit world or even fundraising.
25. Have a naming contest for raising funds for a specific pet in need of surgery or medical treatment. We have people donate $5 for each opportunity to name a pet (so $100 = 20 tries). Clearly this is relatively specific to rescue, however I am sure the idea could be adapted to fit other charities and their missions.
26. Being authentic and real is the foundation of nonprofit fundraising. Donors don't want anything that even hints of phoniness. When communication from a nonprofit comes from a person, not the "corporate speak," it attracts donors.
27. Our newsletter always had a letter from the CEO. I changed it to be from the board chair. Want to engage him more. He said yes. I drafted a letter, he personalized it. We are running the letter.
28. Having donor stones on the premises of our nonprofit organization, whereas a piece of the donor will be at our nonprofit sanctuary forever. Haven't tested this idea yet, but will be in coming weeks.
29. Online contests and voter-based grant giving — we actually won a car this way! Being in control of the voting is hard, but it makes you feel more in control, whereas with private judging, anything goes. We do any and every contest we can for funding; many do involve encouraging supporters to like and share, but there are many that just involve a single entry that can be considered a "grant" by a grant writer. I consider them one and the same and after winning a car, we're definitely bigger fans.
30. We encourage donors in production agriculture to make gifts of grain, livestock or other commodities. We send mailings, e-mails and have a website dedicated to gifts such as these.
31. At the same early-childhood program, we found that the most successful fundraising activities were those that focused on our mission. We often used children's artwork on note cards and small prints, which were sold at an annual fair. Other pieces created by children included necklaces made from plastic photoslide holders — the children decorated them, they had holes drilled in the top for a cord and acetate added to the opening; a pre-printed image was added, but the purchaser could add a photo of his or her choosing. Inexpensive photo frames from IKEA were also decorated by the children, and sold; some included artwork by the children. We also created collages of the children's artwork and printed them on T-shirts and had quilts made with the artwork. The T-shirts were sold, and the quilts were auctioned.
32. My firm is made up of mostly millennial coaches. We are trying to help nonprofits transition to reaching tomorrow's donors by one-on-one coaching and full development services on how to holistically implement partnership development. One of the things I've been thinking is how much important it is to connect donors with actual, measurable strategic impact. Having an opportunity to give that connects with their passions is simply a pay-to-play value these days, and yet so many organizations strive to simply get there. My idea is that fundraising must go beyond simply resourcing nonprofits to actually serving donors. Especially as millennials, we don't just promote the fact that we're involved in changing the world — our identities are actually built around changing the world. So, we need to build an exchange for nonprofits that will allow everyone to connect intimately with their nonprofit, and champion the three to five organizations that really communicate the donors' identity to their social networks. Like LinkedIn is the network for professional connection, we need a network for social change and how we can share and promote our online identities through these organizations.
33. As an air medical-helicopter provider, we let donors "sponsor a mission" for $842 (actual charity care write-offs divided by number of flights). They received a handwritten note about their mission ("MF5 and crew flew toddler from X rural hospital to Children's Hospital on X date" — enough to tell the story, but not enough to identify.) Donors also received helicopter cut-out to display. Annual renewals planned. Great for groups fundraising as well.
Recognition & Acknowledgement
34. Using a live honor roll to highlight giving levels: Turn Your Name to Gold
35. Use iPhone camera to record personalized thank-you messages from scholarship recipients, then share with donors on visits.
36. In addition to the initial thank-you note to scholarship donor, send periodic updates though the year from that student.
37. Replace expensive sponsor thank-you gifts with something inexpensive yet appropriate. Fifteen years ago, I helped with a local Boy Scouts fundraising dinner. They used to give sponsors autographed NFL footballs ($$$). Instead, I made each table sponsor (all 15) a genuine Pinewood Derby car with their company logo on it. Someone else made display stands.
38. Incentives for donors, hand-created by volunteers with handwritten notes. In a day where everything is high-tech, I feel that going back to the basics of handwriting and personalization seems to get attention.
39. We help at-risk youth. Some of our youths made handmade Valentine's cards for approximately 50 donors. Very well received.
40. Social Media ads with no call to action to minimize clicks (expense) but build awareness through impressions.
41. Social-media campaign: Speak to the audience on Facebook as if the animals of our nonprofit are asking for help in fundraising, not "us" humans that are working on their behalf at the nonprofit. It's actually raised more $ than any other campaign we've run thus far. We say that "X" animal has "no friends on FB" and why they require friends to keep them sustained ... sympathy vote has struck a chord with a few high-dollar donors.
42. Linking social media to our website, to shows live Twitter feeds from our donors posting about us.
43. Paying to boost Facebook posts — it is moderately successful for having more people see it, but if the post is not engaging or exciting, it won't increase the number of shares by much.
44. FB Portrait: E-mail to 500 volunteer leaders. "We need your help — to create a social media buzz! The end of the fiscal year arrives in a few short days and we need your help using social media to call your classmates to action. Starting on Tuesday, June 25, and continuing through Sunday, June 30, please promote philanthropy to Hamilton by changing your Facebook profile photo to the image below. It's easy! Follow these simple steps: 1. Save the attached image to your Desktop. 2. Drag your mouse over your Facebook profile picture. Select Edit Picture, and then Upload Photo. Select the image from the Desktop. 3. Click Comment, and then insert 'I gave to Hamilton and I hope you do too. Give today at http://bit.ly/147YiNc and support @HamiltonCollege.' Show your Buff and Blue spirit by posting throughout the week on your social networks: Post on Facebook, Instagram wearing some of your finest Hamilton swag, create a video using Vine ... whatever works! Be sure to include a link to the Make a Gift page (http://bit.ly/147YiNc) in all your posts and use the @HamiltonCollege tag. Please also remind your Hamilton network about the Trustee Challenge — each gift made before June 30 is matched dollar for dollar."
45. Asking constituents (donors and nondonors who were past students, parents, host familes, volunteers) to share their memories of their experience with us (foreign exchange program).
46. Asking donors and alumni what impact our program has had on their lives personally. I have actually done this at two different organizations (foreign exchange program and private high school).
47. Using e-mails with just testimonials from clients.
48. Bringing board members in for hands-on experiences. In our case, that means letting them see and touch robotic surgical equipment, but could mean sitting in on a class, participating in some kind of program activity at your agency, etc. not just watching, but doing.
49. Engaging alumni as hosts for students who are interviewing for jobs (or in our case, residency programs) in their cities. Helps students defray travel costs and lets alumni feel involved.
50. Moving away from alumni reunions by class year and instead group by decade, with appropriate programming for each instead of one size fitting all, which it never does.
Next up? Everyone wants me to ask everyone to talk about their greatest flops now! What have I gotten myself into?
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.