You Asked—Fundraising Questions Answered, Part Two
How do you get people to go beyond signing a petition? If you ask someone to do two things, they are more likely to gravitate toward the easiest option. So from the beginning, try signing the petition (or any other non-giving action) to the gift: "When you send in your donation this month, be sure to include your petition so we can ______." For non-donors, you may want to reverse that: "When you send in your petition, please also include a donation so we can ______." Personally, I would not tie the donation into covering the cost of compiling and delivering the petition, for example. If you ultimately want to acquire or renew donors to help you accomplish your work, you have to stay focused on the donation and what it will do for your mission. Avoid making any kind of involvement device the tail that wags the dog, unless raising funds is not your greatest priority.
How can we find the best financial supporters? Just last week I read results of a survey that showed the people with the lowest income give the greatest percentage of their income to charity. So, simply casting your net for wealthy people is not the solution. You need a solid base of people who give to you consistently. I view it as a building—you need a strong foundation of donors in order to add more stories, like planned giving, major gift officers, etc. So, how do you get this foundation of donors? You have to work very, very hard. There are no shortcuts. Ask existing donors to (1) give a monthly gift (even $10 a month beats two $50 gifts a year) and (2) refer their friends so you can invite them to give, as well. That's not going to lead to huge results, but it should be part of your effort. You also need to invest in acquiring donors; if you have a committed donor who has more resources, or a board that is truly committed, you can ask him/her/them to underwrite the cost of acquisition. And, you have to have program results that are measured and meaningful. People like to join the winning team, but you have to tell them about the impact you are having. It's not just "we're doing a good job." You need to do the work required so you can prove it both with statistics (head) and with stories showing impact (heart). But once again, it takes very hard work to build the solid, lasting foundation that leads to a sustainable nonprofit organization.