Dynamics of Making the Big Ask: 5 Strategies to Live By
Whether you’re a member of an established nonprofit or an up-and-coming small shop, you’re likely always looking for new-and-improved ways to make the big ask.
Your nonprofit doesn’t need to be in dire straits to benefit from a review of your gift solicitation process. In fact, it’s smart for every nonprofit to regularly review their ask strategy.
However, while the realities of nonprofit fundraising are changing every day, there are certain fundamentals to making your ask that ring true year after year.
If your team has lost sight of these essential best practices, it’s worth taking a step back and determining how you can incorporate them into your fundraising efforts.
In this article, we’ll dive into the basics of a well-rounded solicitation strategy to help ensure your nonprofit is making the big ask the right way. These include:
- Perfecting your donor data strategy.
- Knowing what gifts you actually need.
- Steering donors toward recurring gifts.
- Offering up alternative ways to give back.
- Tapping into the power of your volunteers.
Stop worrying about finding the newest, trendiest ways to make your ask. Let’s dive into these solicitation essentials to get your team back to the basics.
1. Perfect Your Donor Data Strategy
Knowing how to frame your solicitations, who to reach out to and how these factors fit into your fundraising campaigns are all fundamental questions nonprofits struggle with daily.
While there’s no magic solution to getting solicitations right every time, there is a way to ensure your team is armed with the right information to make effective asks: donor data.
Having a keen donor data strategy should be a crucial element of your solicitation efforts. When your nonprofit knows its supporters (and knows them well), you’ll be better prepared to make meaningful connections that are crucial to fundraising success.
Luckily, your team can ensure your donor data strategy is in line by abiding by these best practices:
- Invest in a smart CRM. When your team has the tools it needs to seamlessly collect data after every supporter interaction, you won’t only know more about your community, but you’ll also have the tools to put that knowledge to good use. Find a robust CRM to handle your nonprofit's data needs and take the time to learn how to make the most of it.
- Customize supporter profiles. After you’ve found an effective CRM solution, you’ll need to start customizing the supporter profiles you’ll build. Instead of collecting vast chunks of data on supporters, be sure to customize your profiles and build segmented supporter lists. This way, the data you have on hand can be easily analyzed.
- Clean your data regularly. It’s not enough to strategically collect data. Rather, your team needs to have measures in place to ensure this data is kept up-to-date and accurate. Pick a CRM platform that offers data cleaning technology like de-duplication features to pinpoint inaccurate or duplicate profiles.
Think your nonprofit’s donor data strategy needs a boost? Consider hiring a fundraising consultant to guide the process. To learn more about picking the right consulting partner, click here.
2. Know What Gifts You Actually Need
One of the most costly mistakes a nonprofit organization can make behind the scenes is not truly understanding their own fundraising strategy.
For many nonprofits, especially newer ones, fundraising goals are set arbitrarily, campaign timelines are decided on a whim and prospect lists are developed as an afterthought.
Yet, the biggest misstep your nonprofit can make on the way to reaching your fundraising goals is to misunderstand what gifts you actually need to make your mission possible.
While gift range charts are staple campaign planning tools for larger campaigns (like capital campaigns and annual fundraising campaigns), they’re also helpful for smaller efforts.
To really strategize your asks, you’ll always need to know what gifts you need, where they’ll come from and how to adjust your plan in case a key donor fails to give.
Creating accurate gift range charts depends on being realistic about your fundraising capacity and the giving capacity of your supporters. Have you reached similar campaign goals in the past? Have your donors given in comparable amounts to prior campaigns?
The bottom line: before making asks, make a plan based on data and past experience to ensure you’re asking for gifts you can realistically secure. Falling short of your campaign goals can have a ripple effect on organization perception and success, so you really shouldn’t ignore this strategy.
3. Steer Donors Toward Recurring Gifts
Another way to ask for gifts more effectively is to incorporate recurring gifts as a part of your solicitation strategy.
Recurring giving is one of the most effective ways to set your nonprofit up for long-term fundraising success.
In recurring gift programs (also called sustaining member or supporter programs, etc.), dedicated supporters agree to make regular gifts to your nonprofit on a set schedule.
These gifts can be small or large, made annually, monthly or seasonally and are completely up to the discretion of your donors.
Choose fundraising software that gives your team the power to easily offer a recurring gift option as part of your donation form or giving page. Prompt supporters to join these programs to reach the widest range of contributors.
You should also regularly market your recurring gift program to your community as an essential way to give back. Send out email streams educating them on the impact that recurring gifts can make and show them how to enroll in this program the next time they give.
Once supporters sign up to be recurring givers, you’ll save yourself years of repeat asks. This means your team can focus on recruiting new donors and maintaining strong connections with supporters, campaign after campaign.
Bonus tip! Planning a capital campaign? One of our top capital campaign best practices is to market recurring gifts to your supporters. When donors sign up during your capital campaign, you’ll set your nonprofit up for regular gifts for the rest of the campaign and possibly even beyond.
4. Offer Up Alternative Ways to Give Back
A huge challenge for nonprofits when making solicitations is figuring out what to do when your prospect says no.
Sometimes, charitable giving just isn't in their budget. Other times, making a gift isn’t a priority because they feel like their gift won’t make a difference for your cause. However, in these situations, persistence is key!
When your supporters seem unwilling or unable to give, counter your solicitation with some sort of alternative to a traditional donation. This might be something that amplifies the reach of a smaller donation or requires no financial investment on their end.
Some of our favorite alternative ways to give back include:
- Matching gifts programs. Your supporters may not know about corporate matching gifts programs or whether they’re eligible for a matched gift. Direct them to a matching gifts database like this one from Double the Donation to see if their donation can be matched.
- Volunteer grant programs. Like matching gifts programs, volunteer grant programs are corporate giving initiatives in which employers make donations to your cause when employees volunteer their time.
- Peer-to-peer fundraising. This social media-driven fundraising method is an excellent way for supporters to raise money for your cause without making a direct donation themselves. (And it can help grow your main base of supporters!)
While not all of your supporters will have the capacity to give every time you ask, they still might want to help your cause. By countering with a giving alternative, you’ll maintain supporter relationships without overburdening key allies.
5. Tap Into the Power of Your Volunteers
Finally, your nonprofit might be missing out on one of your biggest resources when making an ask: your volunteers!
Volunteers are among your nonprofit’s most dedicated supporters, but organizations often take these individuals for granted because they are donating their time rather than their money.
Yet, volunteers are actually a segment that’s more likely to give (and return to give again) since they already have a relationship with your cause. That being said, there are many ways to leverage your volunteers when making solicitations.
Our top strategies include:
- Use supporter data to find promising leads. Just like your team would search donor data to build prospect lists, you should also review your volunteer data to find potential givers and discover networking leads.
- Ask volunteers to be fundraising ambassadors. If your volunteers can’t give at this time, ask them to serve as fundraising ambassadors. They can reach out to key prospects to lay the groundwork for solicitations or otherwise spread the word about your cause.
- Make connections with their companies. Many of your volunteers work for prominent companies with robust corporate philanthropy programs. Ask these supporters to introduce you to the people who make decisions about sponsorships and major gifts. This can be especially helpful for your next capital campaign.
Don’t discount the power of your volunteers! As you plan for future fundraising efforts or look for ways to boost the success of ongoing campaigns, consider tapping into your volunteers as a key fundraising resource.
Making solicitations can seem like a daunting process. However, when your nonprofit abides by these tried-and-true best practices, you’re sure to reach your goals!