If you could only do five things between now and the end of the year to make a noticeable difference in your nonprofit’s fundraising results, what would you do?
I’ve been writing recently about five subject areas – key priorities for success this year, and beyond. Today I’d like to offer one BIG “to do” in each area to help you hone in on some actionable steps that will move the needle and have a transformative impact on your results.
These aren’t little things you can check off your list in a day. They’re admittedly BIG.
But you’ve got to think big to make a real difference. To raise big money.
Otherwise you’re just tinkering around the edges.
And these “To-Do’s” really are manageable for nonprofits of any size. You just scale them to fit your organization.
Even if you can’t do all of these things this year, put them on your calendar for early next year. Because these are things you should be doing all year long.
Just to remind you, the “Dive the Five” areas are:
- Major Gifts
- Donor Retention
- Online Social Fundraising
- Integrated Content Marketing
- Culture of Philanthropy
I encourage you to continue to use these “buckets” as an organizing framework for your development efforts. If you have a strong plan for each area, you’ll be well on your way to sustaining your organization through thick and thin.
And, for those of you already doing these things, think about one thing you could do even better — to take it up a notch.
5 To Do’s: One in Each of the “Dive the Five” Categories
1. MAJOR GIFTS:
You don’t just roll out of bed one day in December, randomly go visit a major donor prospect and ask for a random amount. At least not without a boatload of advance preparation. Right?
Since you’ve still got time to prepare for your year-end solicitations, let’s take a look at what you can do to get yourself and your solicitors ready to make win/win matches between your organization and your prospective donor/investors.
One thing you can do right now to turn random to intentional?
TO-DO — Make a Clear Plan For:
(1) How much you need to raise from major donors.
Begin with your major gift fundraising goal, and mean it. Set a specific “ask” goal for every major donor prospect. Then stick with it! Let’s say you need to raise $100,000 from your board, and you have 20 board members. You’ll need to secure an average gift of $5,000. Imagine you ask the board president for this amount, she gives you only $2,500, and everyone else follows suit. You’re sunk. If you ask for and accept too little, you’re not going to get anywhere. You may not be able to complete the project. You may even have to shut it down. This makes no one happy, least of all your donors. This is something too many nonprofits forget! Major gifts are passionate gifts. They’re transformative gifts. Your job is to inspire ardent philanthropy that excites your donors and brings meaning to their lives. So, know where you’re going and don’t back down.
I know I was supposed to ask for $5,000. But before I could ask, the donor told me he’d talked with his wife and they’d decided to give $2,500. So I thought it would be rude to ask for more at that point.
No, no, no! It’s never rude to tell your donors exactly what is needed to get the job done. It’s a lot ruder to have to tell the people who rely on your services that you won’t be able to deliver them. Many prospective donors will be flattered that you asked, and that you consider them to be very important leaders.
Thank you so much! That’s a wonderful commitment, and… I came here hoping to ask you to consider a gift of $5,000. Let me tell you why a gift at this level is so important right now… Would you be able to consider this?
(2) Who you’ll need to solicit to get to that goal.
Once you’ve determined your fundraising goal, take a look at current donors in your database. How many donors do you have above your major gift amount? Use your database to help you figure out the number of prospects you have and the likelihood your prospects will give you the amount you’re asking. [You can learn more about how to determine this amount in Get Your Nonprofit Ready for Major Gifts].
— What’s their pattern of giving? Have they been giving loyally over a period of time? Have they been increasing their gifts? These are signs of readiness for a larger ask.
— What’s their pattern of engagement? Have they attended events? Volunteered? Shared your messaging with their personal networks? These are also signs of readiness to become more closely involved and invested.
If you find plenty of likely major donor prospects in your database, you’re ready to move on. Use your database to create individual donor profiles for use by your solicitors. Include information relevant to the solicitation only; not confidential notes. And talk through this profile with your solicitor so they’re sure how to use it. In other words, the fact that a particular donor gave $1,000 each of the past three years does not necessarily mean your solicitor will know you want them to ask for $5,000 this year. Tell solicitors explicitly how much to ask for.
If you don’t find sufficient major donor prospects, you’ll need to do one of two things: (1) find new prospects outside your database, or (2) revise your fundraising goal downward. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Again, this makes no one happy.
(3) Who will make the required asks.
Determine who you have available, staff and volunteers, to make major gift solicitations. Likely suspects are the director of development and/or major gift officer; executive director; selected executive and program staff; board of directors; former board of directors; committee volunteers, and donors. Volunteer participation is very important, and often raises the level of trust and comfort felt by donors. Let’s face it, it’s different if a volunteer takes their time to speak passionately of their commitment to your cause. They don’t get paid to do so.
Prepare these folks to become actively involved this year. This may involve a formal training/practice session to help them overcome their fear of fundraising and learn how to joyfully inspire philanthropy, as well as one-to-one talks with each solicitor to develop and follow through on an individual fundraising portfolio (their “assignments”) and plan (specifically what you want them to do before, during and after the solicitation).
2. DONOR RETENTION
This is the name of the game in fundraising today. With so much competition for philanthropy, and most donors giving larger gifts to fewer organization, placing a greater focus on developing long-term supporters who return year after year is just common sense. Plus there’s the fact that donor acquisition is hugely more expensive than retention. Only 19% of first-time donors renew per the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. This leaves your organization with a loss on your initial investment to gain that new donor. In other words, acquisition yields no benefit unless you retain the donor over the long-term. Renew someone even just once, and retention rates increase to 63%. Placing an emphasis on renewals and upgrades should be a no-brainer.
One thing you can do right now to keep your hard-won donors next year?
TO-DO — Build a Basic Stewardship Plan.
Figure out 12 strategies you’ll use this year (one a month) to keep your donors satisfied that they made a great decision investing in you.
(1) Begin, of course, with a killer thank you letter. Make sure it’s prompt and personal, and that it makes the donor feel really terrific about the impact of their giving.
(2) Then think about other little “gifts” of content you can sprinkle throughout the year. You can send cards, emails, videos, stories, “how to lists,” news folks can use, invitations to free events, coupons… the sky’s the limit! Just show your donors you’re thinking of them, because they’re you’re heroes. For more on this, see #4, below. Or grab the Creative Ways to Thank Your Donors E-Book — with 60+ ideas for you to steal!
3. ONLINE SOCIAL FUNDRAISING
Online social fundraising has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past several years, and is outpacing the growth in overall giving per Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index. In fact, their report reveals that 23% of all online giving is from peer-to-peer fundraising. There are two forces at play that make online social fundraising so powerful:
- It relies on the proliferation of social media. The number one way folks find out about brands today is online.
- It relies on the power of social proof . People are three times more likely to donate when asked by a friend or colleague.
One thing you can do right now to enable folks to become fundraisers on your behalf?
TO-DO — Get on Board with Peer-to-Peer Fundraising.
I’m talking about what’s known as “do it yourself” or “self-directed” fundraising. You make it possible (and easy) for folks you know, and folks who happen upon you, to fundraise on your behalf year-round – sometimes tied to their own personal events, like birthdays. It’s a great way to actively engage people who can’t make major gifts on their own, but can put together a “package” of gifts from their friends, family and colleagues so they can feel the joy of being the equivalent of a major donor. I’m not talking about fundraising events like walkathons. Nor am I talking about rewards crowdfunding, which generally offers incentives for different tiers of investments to get a project up and running.
Peer-to-peer fundraising not only raises money; it introduces you to a group of new donors (and potential fundraisers) you’d otherwise never have met. In other words, it doesn’t cannibalize traditional donors or donations. According to Network for Good, peer-to-peer fundraising is additive, allowing you to grow both your revenue and your donor base.
Once peer-to-peer fundraising infrastructure is in place, you have flexibility to respond to opportunities and crises as they arise. In our fast-paced world, things happen quickly. You need to be able to respond promptly.
Liberate some resources, or secure a capacity-building major gift or grant, to hire an outside vendor to help you create and promote online fundraising pages. You can find some suggestions in “How to Use Peer-to-Peer Fundraising to Grow Year-End Giving.”
If you don’t have a robust monthly giving program at present, select a vendor who can also help you to set up user-friendly monthly giving from your website. Monthly giving increases average annual donations, and these donors stick with you longer. So put the peer-to-peer fundraising infrastructure in place now; put the monthly giving infrastructure in place next year. Together, these two online strategies will give you lots of bang for your buck.
4. INTEGRATED CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing focuses on message, not medium. You begin with what you have to say, figure out what your constituents want to hear, and then determine where these intersect. Next you build a plan to efficiently disseminate your messaging to target constituents. Your written content marketing plan should embrace both fundraising and awareness-raising goals.
One thing you can do right now to create awareness that leads to donations?
TO-DO — Bring Together a Multi-disciplinary Team to Brainstorm Salient Content.
Get out your easel. Put together a team of staff and/or volunteers who work in different areas — program, marketing, fundraising and volunteer services.
(1) Together, create a list of what’s hot at your organization.
Consider how what you do ties in with what’s going on in the news (and what may be top of mind for your potential supporters).
(2) Next brainstorm a list of what resonates with your constituents.
What programs receive the highest volume of donations? What are your most frequently asked questions? Ask your receptionist. Ask your program directors. Ask your volunteers. What content do you see your constituents sharing on social media?
(3) Use a marker to connect the hot, relevant topics to the hot, relevant questions and shares.
That’s the content you want to put out into the universe – through whatever marketing communications mediums you have at your disposal or can realistically manage.
(4) Now you’re ready to create a content editorial calendar.
This is where you begin to think about your mediums. Which content will work best in your blog or newsletter? Which do you want to share via social media? What should go into your fundraising appeal? When will you piggyback, perhaps sharing your blog posts via links to your e-newsletter or Twitter feed? Who will be in charge of producing the content? Who will review it? What will the deadline be?And so forth. Your content calendar gets you organized. It helps you to become strategic and consistent, rather than random and ad hoc.
There are many different templates and content scheduling tools out there to choose from, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. It can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet template; a Google calendar; a free Editorial Calendar Plug-in with a simple drag and drop interface… or even a Word document or desk-top or wall calendar. It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be something with which you’re comfortable.
5. CULTURE OF PHILANTHROPY
Does your organization have a culture of philanthropy where fundraising is viewed and valued by everyone as a mission-aligned program of your organization? Or is fundraising siloed (fundraising staff and development committee), with everyone else thinking “that’s not my job?”
The problem with compartmentalizing fundraising is that your audiences don’t view you this way. Your potential supporters only know one organization. They don’t care who they’re dealing with. They expect great service from everyone, not just the development staff. If they don’t get it, they infer this is the way you conduct the rest of your busness.
One thing you can do right now to move towards a donor service culture?
TO-DO — Self-Assess. Then Make a Plan to Improve.
The recently released report from the Walter and Evelyn Haas, Jr. Fund, “Beyond Fundraising: What Does it Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy?,” makes a persuasive case that donor service and relationship-building is what leads to sustainability, and lays out concrete ways for nonprofits to consistently take better care of their constituents.
(1) Go through the 10 Top Indicators of Philanthropic Culture.
Similar to the findings from the Haas Jr. Fund report, these indicators suggested by Michelle Regel, Canadian thought leader and former AFP chair, will help you evaluate how your organization stacks up.
(2) Pick a minimum of two to improve upon; then develop a written plan to do so.
(1) One way to begin is to assure that everyone knows your organization’s case for support and can share it.
(2) Another is to share your successes at every opportunity. Give credit where it is due. Fundraisers don’t raise money because they’re so great. They succeed because the programs succeed. Celebrate your program staff and your fundraising staff. Do it in in-house publications. Do it at all-staff meetings. Do it at board meetings. Do it informally in the halls. Just do it!
Want More Major Gifts Help to Boost Year-End Giving?
Get the Clairification Major Gifts Playbook to learn everything you need to know about setting goals, identifying, researching and qualifying prospects, building your case for support, cultivating both donor-prospects and solicitors, inspiring major donors to say “Yes!” and stewarding donors so they’ll remain loyal over time. The Playbook offers a holistic approach to major gifts fundraising through 4 separate e-Guides. They work as stand-alones as well as companion pieces. Have a specific area that’s proving to be a stumbling block? Or just know there’s something you could do a lot better? Buy one or two that meet your precise needs. If you’re new to major gifts, get ‘em all at the “Bundle Bargain” discount .
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