Finding Buried Fundraising Opportunities
One of the tough jobs of a fundraiser is finding time to look objectively at the current activities to spot untapped opportunities. A robust fundraising program seems to never take time off, so probing and asking "what if?" questions is frequently a luxury that simply gets pushed aside. The tyranny of the urgent often means we don't have time to find ways to better engage those donors who don't have strong commitments to our organization.
Yet, constantly broadening our base of supporters matters. Major donors often begin as annual fund donors, and future bequest donors may be lurking in your direct response files. Plus, attrition means we must constantly cultivate donors who could be our staunchest supporters in the future.
Now that we are well into the fourth month of 2015, many fundraising programs are churning along in anticipation of a big finish at year-end. But how big that finish is depends in part on what you do over the next few months to find and take advantage of opportunities in the form of donors who are not presently engaging with you.
Opportunity 1: Occasional donors. Donors who give a few times a year may not even think about your organization most of the time, especially if you aren't faithful about sending them newsletters and appeals (both electronic and print). If you "go dark" for the summer, you'll likely have to do some catch-up in the fall to re-engage many of them at year-end.
Instead, invite them to consider a monthly pledge for the summer months rather than asking for a one-time gift. This can help engage them in your mission and get them in the habit of giving on a more consistent basis. Your request may be for a smaller amount than they usually give, but it can be significant when multiplied over three months. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to say "thank you" and report on results more often as you send them receipts.
Opportunity 2: Lapsed donors. Donors stop giving for many reasons, but sometimes it's just simple forgetfulness. Before the summer months, invite your former donors to once again give to support your work. Don't hesitate to remind them that it's been a while since they gave; they probably don't recall how long it's been.
Provide a compelling reason to give again. Maybe summer months are your busiest, or they are the months many other donors get sidetracked with activities and forget how much your work depends on their support. Appeal to your lapsed donors' sense of importance; "knowing we can count on you this summer will be a tremendous encouragement as we continue to …"
Opportunity 3: New donors. By now, you probably have a group of donors who gave first gifts sometime since November of last year but haven't given again. Waiting until next fall to remind them how important their giving is could be too late; potentially, they may have moved on.
Instead, remind them how thrilled you were when they made their first gifts and what you were able to accomplish; make it as specific as possible. Explain how you hope they will be able to give again today because the work they invested in continues to make a real difference.
You may be thinking, "Wow! That sounds like a lot of work—and a lot of expense!" Yes, it will take time and cost money, but using variable text can help you talk to each group without reinventing the wheel every time. Begin by identifying a specific need you have in the summer, and then describe it in as tangible a way as possible, adding appropriate language for each group of donors.
This old dog has seen that it's often our consistent donors and major supporters who help fund our work in the summer months, making it tempting to ignore the balance of the file that takes more effort to engage. But laying the groundwork now can not only result in more engaged donors for year-end giving, but also bring in additional gifts over the summer.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.