What’s Old is New in Fundraising
The changes in the fundraising landscape these days are profound. New technologies and platforms give us even more ways to communicate with supporters and donors.
The number of tax-exempt charities is growing at a high rate, increasing by nearly 13% in 2014 alone (The NonProfit Times, March 24, 2015, “Stats Show Huge Jump In Tax-Exempt Orgs, Applications”). Competition is fierce.
The shift to monthly giving within many organizations’ fundraising programs represents a new fundraising model, changing our expectations in terms of performance and even how we evaluate data.
Despite all of these changes, tried-and-true basic fundraising principles still apply. Here are my favorites.
- Keep in touch – You are not bothering your donors by asking them for money, even your major donors. They want to help you and support your mission, which is why they gave to begin with. You enable them to engage with you when you maintain regular contact.
- But not every day or multiple times in a day – It’s likely that many departments in your organization are engaging with your supporters regularly. If you don’t coordinate all of your organization’s communications, you might overwhelm your supporters. Maintain a Communications Calendar for your entire organization and stick to it.
- You have to ask for money – Your supporters believe in your mission and want to help. However, they can’t read your mind. If you need their financial support, then you need to ask for it.
- But not every time – Your supporters are not ATMs! They are valued partners in forwarding your organization’s mission. They want to know they are making a difference. Remember the importance of stewardship. Keep them updated on your progress and other ways that they can help beyond giving their financial support.
- Remember to say thank you: sincerely, often, and promptly – As in any relationship, donors want to feel appreciated.
- Make the donor the star, not your organization – Tell donors how their support makes a difference in the mission of the organization.
- Show your donors that you know them by listening to what they tell you – Being able to accurately reference and follow your supporters’ preferences will make them feel appreciated.
- Make ask amounts appropriate – Ability to give does not always equal propensity to give. You can’t assume that every worthy cause will appeal to everyone. Find your supporters and cultivate those relationships.
- Test and try new things – You won’t change your fundraising results by doing the same thing every time. What works for another organization might not work for you so test.
- But avoid change for the sake of change – Let the numbers help you evaluate performance, not your personal preferences. Just because you are tired of your control fundraising appeal, it doesn’t mean that your donors and prospects will feel the same way.
- Invest in growing your program and new donor acquisition – Unless you have a large percentage of monthly donors, when you eliminate donor acquisition from your program, your numbers will likely look great in the short-term, but you will soon see a shortfall that will last for years into the future.
- Keep the ask simple – Don’t try to educate and raise money at the same time.
- Consider carefully who you are targeting – A good fundraising appeal will work to the right audience, but the best appeal won’t work if it’s sent to the wrong audience. Take the time to look at prior segment results.
Follow these principles to allow the keys to success of the past drive your success in the future.