Want to Guarantee Fundraising Success? Dive These 5 Fundamentals
In 2016, there are five fundamental skills nonprofits must master to guarantee success in an overcrowded marketplace.
- Integrate donor-centered fundraising with a robust social content marketing strategy.
- Master online social fundraising.
- Master one-to-one major-gift fundraising.
- Master donor retention.
- Shift to an organization-wide culture of philanthropy.
Some of these skills will seem familiar, but the way you employ them may need to be tweaked in order for you to survive and thrive in our digitally revolutionized society. Other skills may be things you’ve thought about or dabbled in, but haven’t really committed to with serious intent and dedicated resources.
1. Integrate donor-centered fundraising with a robust social content marketing strategy.
Let’s begin with the first part of this two-part equation: "Integrate. Donor-centered. Fundraising."
Every word is intentional and impactful. "Integrate" means bring together; no more silos. Your donor only knew one organization. Stop confusing them with inconsistent, uncoordinated messaging. "Donor-centered" means focus on your constituents’ needs; not yours. Love them. Praise them. Give them useful content. “Fundraising” means something everyone does; we’re all in fundraising now (this parallels Daniel Pink’s notion that "we’re all in sales now."
Now to the second part of this equation: "Social. Content. Marketing."
In our digitally revolutionized world, you must include a robust online (email, the Internet and social media) strategy. "Social" means building lasting relationships. "Content" means what you have to offer folks that connects them to your mission. "Marketing" is how you deliver content.
Content marketing will become the primary way folks will become aware of you; it should be oriented to create and keep customers (buyers, subscribers, donors, volunteers, etc.) And also to create customers who create other customers (advocates, ambassadors and influencers). For this to happen, you must give folks something they really want or need; solve their problems. And you must make it easy for them to share your content with others.
2. Master online social fundraising.
In our digitally revolutionized world, you must find a way to truly connect with your natural constituencies. Whoever you are and whatever you do, your constituents are likely to be online. We’re all now a part of "Generation Connected" (GenC). This requires you to develop and master a robust online engagement strategy (email, the Internet and social media). And this means content marketing. And not just any content.
Mastering online social fundraising means you must commit to being useful. Give folks something they really want or need; solve their problems. Otherwise, they won’t give a fig.
To raise more money next year, you’ve got to develop an online plan that includes getting to know your current and prospective donors better. That’s why you need to get social. Interact. Ask for feedback. Learn what content your constituencies want. If you don’t know this, you can’t fulfill their wishes.
You also can’t keep your constituents connected to you if you don’t celebrate them, woo them and continue to give them what they want. There’s just too much competition for folks’ attention for you to appear boring or self-promotional. Ego-centric content won't get you where you want to go.
Commit to making your donors feel good. Your messages should be replete with highlights of what they’ve helped to accomplish. These are your donors’ victories! And balance your appeals with interactive stuff that seeks your donors’ feedback. Show you care about what they think, believe and feel.
3. Master one-to-one major-gift fundraising.
This is the most traditional, tried-and-true strategy, and it works like gangbusters! Eighty percent of the money in the U.S., according to Giving USA, comes from individuals. And of these folks, roughly 10 to 20 percent will provide 80 to 90 percent of an average nonprofit’s annual fundraising. So embracing major-gift fundraising shouldn’t be controversial. Yet many nonprofits still think major-gift fundraising isn’t for them.
A survey by Bloomerang, a donor software provider, showed that less than 20 percent of charities have even one person specifically designated to pursue and cultivate major donors. Instead, they stuff their calendars with special events. They focus their fundraising primarily on grants. They’re losing money and/or building shaky foundations with these strategies.
Commit this year to getting your piece of the pie! Did you know that of all U.S. donors, 12 percent account for the lion’s share of the money raised—88 percent! It simply makes sense to follow the money.
4. Master donor retention.
Donor retention has been terrible for years. But nonprofits have largely been ignoring the data. It’s as if the sector is ignoring the reality of climate change, choosing to charge forward looking for more sources of non-renewable energy. This is the year to say "no" to this senseless devastation!
Too many nonprofits are wasting their limited resources running on a treadmill. With so much competition for donors today, and so much competition just for attention, it’s never been more important to make authentic connections with your supporters that will cement your relationships with them. This is perhaps the topic about which I’m most passionate.
We’re all about the work ethic in this country; we need to shift to a "work smart" ethic. And it’s not smart to be doing a lot of expensive donor acquisition; then losing eight out of 10 new donors. It’s more cost-effective to retain a donor than to acquire one. So nonprofits must know their retention rates; establish specific goals for improvement; and invest in personal, authentic, gratitude-filled cultivation and stewardship.
5. Shift to an organization-wide culture of philanthropy.
You need to become a philanthropy team! Fundraising must stop being seen as a "necessary evil." It must be seen as a good thing—for everyone. Because it makes donors feel good, and it makes good things happen.
Shift your thinking—and the culture of your organization—in the direction of gratitude, rather than greediness, toward your donors. "Culture of philanthropy" is the meme du jour, but I find it helpful to think of it as a "customer service" or a “gratitude culture” because it makes it a bit more actionable.
"Philanthropy" means "love of humankind," and that’s how you should act toward your current and potential supporters. Your organizational culture should fairly burst with gratitude, philanthropy and service.
Ready to "dive the five" this year? Fundraising success in 2016 means getting your entire organization and constituency on board to help you–that’s on the diving board! Bring folks together around your shared values using these five fundamentals. Come on in; the water’s fine.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.