Top Nonprofit Strategies With Fundraising Expert Aly Sterlng
Having interacted with all types of organizations over the years as donor, employee and consultant, I can say that many nonprofits encounter similar challenges to strategic planning, fundraising and board leadership.
While it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone, you’re still left with the ultimate dilemma of how to address these issues.
All nonprofits can reach their goals when they have effective boards, clear strategies and a commitment to fundraising. Therefore, as long as you’ve put the necessary systems in place and sought counsel when you needed the help, your nonprofit should be ready to move forward on even your most ambitious plans.
Let’s dive into some strategies to apply to your nonprofit plans as you consider goals for your mission.
1. Cultivate Two-Way Conversations With Your Supporters
Even in the most uncertain of times, there is one certainty that nonprofits can (and should) stick to in order to lift their missions and stay the course: the need to establish relationships.
The ultimate goal is to cultivate supporters at all levels in order to bring them closer to your mission.
But how does this cultivation process work? Conversations. Establish a two-way conversation between your nonprofit and your supporters by which you share your updates and story with them, while also listening to their input for your organization.
Share with your supporters.
Consider the different segments of supporters you have saved in your CRM when you’re crafting messages. Who will be reading what you’re writing? What are they interested in hearing? How do you want them to respond?
For instance, you may consider sharing with platforms such as:
- Social media. Social media isn’t a “new” idea anymore. It’s an established method of communicating, especially with your younger supporters. Pay attention to which sites will best communicate your message. Instagram is a great visual aid for your mission while Facebook may be better suited for sharing long-winded updates.
- Your case for support. Keep your case for support document up-to-date so that your nonprofit can easily share its goals to donors. You may also develop a case for support document for special project fundraising, such as a capital campaign. Ask your capital campaign consultant to review or assist with the case messaging to ensure it’s up to par.
- Face-to-face meetings. Be prepared for face-to-face conversations with donors, especially your major donors. Your major gift officer should be prepared to share the latest organizational updates, including successes and goals, with prospects during these meetings.
Tell your nonprofit’s supporters about your accomplishments. After giving to your cause, they’ll feel proud to know that their funding was put to good use.
Also tell them about your goals. Share your broad mission statement among donor acquisition platforms. Then, share more specific major goals (think capital campaign outcomes) with your organization’s key stakeholders.
Listen to your supporters.
Remember this is a two-way conversation and your supporters have important things to say.
Donors, especially your major prospects, are much more likely to give to your organization if your needs line up with their motivations. But the only way to learn about their motivations is to ask them.
Consider the following strategies to better listen to your supporters:
- Begin the engagement by asking supporters what their philanthropic goals are.
- Change your perspective to view your supporters as true partners in your mission.
- Send surveys to gather feedback about stewardship events and smaller activities.
- Invite key stakeholders to conversations determining the next best steps for your nonprofit.
By taking the time to better understand the interests and motivations of your supporters, your nonprofit can more effectively propose opportunities to help reach both their goals and your own.
2. Keep a Campaign Mentality Throughout the Year
A constant mindset and approach to fundraising that includes heightened communication, focused goals, intentional donor cultivation, powerful case stories and active board engagement fueled by a sense of urgency and purpose.
If you’ve ever launched a major campaign for your nonprofit, you know about the excitement it instills in your staff members. Motivations, commitment and energy all fuel a momentum like no other. But after the campaign is over, where does all that momentum go?
For many nonprofits, their development teams have trouble sustaining that level of energy year-round with tasks that tend to not have a deadline. For instance, some may prioritize creating a newsletter, finishing up a grant proposal, migrating data to the proper systems and managing fundraising events because these items have a hard deadline.
Meanwhile, activities without these hard deadlines, like donor cultivation and stewardship, are left for tomorrow’s To-Do list, then the next day, then the next day and so on.
However, expanding your team or delegating responsibilities effectively will help your nonprofit keep up the momentum of campaign mode every day.
Maintaining a campaign mentality throughout the year will help your nonprofit:
- Heighten communication with supporters.
- Focus on achieving specific goals.
- Delegate specific leaders for activities.
- Effectively cultivate donors.
- Provide powerful case studies.
- Remain accountable to stakeholders.
- Actively engage board members.
Sounds good, right? Having a campaign mentality is all about engaging and energizing your team with a sense of urgency and purpose.
A fundraising consultant can help you set up a system that empowers your staff members to apply a campaign mentality to their day-to-day work. To start the hiring process, do some research about potential firms with this list of top consultants from Aly Sterling Philanthropy.
3. Pay Attention to Generational Differences in Supporters
There are currently five different generations living in the U.S., each with very different approaches to philanthropic giving. Paying attention to the differences in giving habits between generations will help your nonprofit take a more targeted approach to your fundraising.
First, let’s start with how we define these generations. According to this NonProfit PRO article, there are five groups of donors we should consider:
- Matures (Born before 1945)
- Baby Boomers (Born 1945-1964)
- Generation X (Born 1965-1980)
- Millennials (Born 1981-1995)
- Generation Z (Born 1996-onward)
Interesting information about these generations include:
- Matures give more per capita than any other generation.
- The average U.S. donor is 64 years old.
- The estimated number of donors has decreased with each generation (with the exception of Baby Boomers).
- Baby Boomers control 57% of the wealth in the U.S. and give 41% of the donations in the country.
- Millennials are predicted to be significant philanthropists due to the wealth they’ll inherit.
So what are you, as a nonprofit, supposed to do with this information?
My first suggestion is to examine your own donors. Look for the generational percentages of those who give to your organization. Then carefully consider where your opportunities lie.
After you’ve given some thought to your current donor-base, you can think about strategies that will help you take advantage of the available opportunities.
For instance, younger generations tend to prefer to take more control over their donations than their more passive elders. Instead of relying on emails and solicitations from nonprofits (which only trigger only about 9% of donations from modern donors), these younger donors prefer to conduct research and use multiple channels to learn more about causes before giving.
Knowing generational differences like this can help your nonprofit better target its communications and platform strategy to engage donors. If you’re looking for a donor database that will help your organization better analyze these key differences, check out the ultimate buyer’s guide here.
4. Consider the ‘Donor Next Door’
The concept of the “donor next door” refers to the mid-tier segment of a nonprofit’s donor base that is frequently overlooked by fundraisers.
Many organizations focus heavily either on their acquisition goals or on their major fundraising goals, both of which are important! However, this limiting mindset leaves your middle donors in the dust.
Your nonprofit should focus its energies on engaging its mid-tier of donors to maximize your current and future funding.
Through stewardship, you can cultivate a strong, long-term relationship with them through which they can fulfill their philanthropy goals by helping your organization fulfill its mission. They can become the lifeblood of your organization!
Here’s a step-by-step engagement guide for these supporters:
- Run a report in your database for gifts in the median range and analyze the findings to find out who they are and how they like to receive communication.
- Create a communication plan that targets this group of supporters. Keep in mind that mid-tier donors are frequently a part of Generation X.
- Reach out to the “middle donors” who give consistently. Ask them to meet you for coffee to have a sit-down conversation with you or another member of your development team.
- Ask the donor about their motivations and their loyalty to your organization. Learn more about their motivations so you can create a strong partnership with them.
Recognizing and cultivating your mid-tier donors is important to building current and future support for your mission. It’s not as easy to measure, nor often as immediate in its results, as acquiring new donors or bringing in big gifts. But it’s essential just the same.
If your nonprofit is looking for more strategies to adhere to the needs of your “donor next door,” boost your campaign mentality or craft a new communication approach, consider hiring a fundraising consultant. These firms are built to help you create a strong, well-rounded strategy to boost your big-picture fundraising. To get started, check out this list of consulting firms by re:Charity.