Great (Free!) Resources for Fundraisers
Being a true “old dog” in the fundraising profession—and given that I’ve been around for seven different U.S. presidents—I’ve seen a lot of change. But what probably excites me the most is the wide variety of absolutely free resources we now have access to.
One of the first things you learn in a marketing course is that “free” is one of the powerful words in advertising. But experience has taught us that sometimes the free thing is only worth what we paid for it. So I like to spread the word when resources come to my attention that I think are worth knowing about. Here are a few I’ve encountered recently.
1. The first is a series of tools under the banner of Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness, brought to us by BoardSource, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, BBB Wise Giving Alliance and GuideStar. I’ve been whining for a while that we’re all talking to ourselves about how evaluating a charity’s worthiness by simply using overhead is a poor measure, but we aren’t taking that conversation out into the marketplace. These free tools are a great way to start a serious dialog with your leadership and board, and to consider how you are positioning your overhead messaging to your donors.
The PowerPoint that is provided as a discussion guide for boards asks a question that stopped me cold: “What percentage of our budget would be unfunded if we lost our top five donors?” Have you build a house of cards that could topple if just a few donors withdrew their support for any reason, or is your donor foundation broad and strong?
It also presents some discussion questions that even a healthy nonprofit should ask from time to time, including, “Are we investing enough in donor engagement and stewardship? Do we have strong renewal rates to prove it?” I highly recommend you take a look at these free materials and initiate a conversation with your leadership. Even if you aren’t in a position to lead the formal conversation, thinking about the questions raised in the PowerPoint is a good starting point when evaluating the sustainability of your fundraising program.
2. The second resource is the “Online Fundraising: The Beginner’s Guide for Nonprofits” from MobileCause. It’s a solid 70 pages of information to help you “walk away ... feeling confident about online fundraising best practices and how your organization can take advantage” of them.
Some of the content is basic—but in reality, a lot of nonprofit organizations still aren’t applying it so it’s very necessary. There is also advice for capturing online donations from TV, direct mail, events and other fundraising tools.
The guide is full of statistics (like “35 percent of direct mail donors prefer to respond to direct mail by giving online”), screenshots, tips and action items, and it’s a great place to begin if you want to add additional digital techniques to your fundraising arsenal. It’s definitely worth downloading and keeping nearby for information and inspiration.
3. Fundraisers looking for an edge will also want to check out "How to Put Matching Funds to Work for Your Fundraising," a free download from TrueSense. In my own experience, matching gifts can be incredibly powerful for lifting fundraising results, and even the smallest organization can usually get a board member (or the entire board) or a single donor to give a matching gift that will be motivational to your direct response donors.
One of my favorite sections in this e-book is “3 Ways to Wreck a Match Offer.” It’s worth downloading this short booklet just to get that refresher. There are also some examples of calls to action and copy phrases that can help you break your own writer’s block if you have a match but aren’t sure how to maximize its power.
With all the free material available now, a fundraiser can get so busy reading and watching that he or she runs out of time to actually fundraise. This old dog recommends developing some kind of filing system where you sort and store these resources so you can easily find them when you have a need. For example, in my electronic file called “Online,” I have 23 different articles and resources that are as old as 8 years and as recent as last week. Whatever you prefer in terms of resource filing, having good options available when you need inspiration, information or impetus can save a lot online searches that yield little but frustration.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.