Philanthropy should not just be about big checks.
That’s why you should never eschew small gift fundraising. Today I’m offering some tips for building and mobilizing your community to find, sustain and grow smaller gifts.
This is important, because a donor’s first gift is seldom their largest. It’s a starting point.
The majority of your gifts will be small, but the majority of your income will come from a small group of major donors.
You have to grow this cadre of loyal, passionate philanthropists by building relationships with supporters over time.
The lion’s share of major gifts come from previously small gift donors.
A client I’m working with told me 50% of their major donors began with very small gifts. How about tracking this for your organization? Sure, some major donors come in at the top. But I’ll bet you a majority start by dipping their toe in the water. How can you get folks more fully immersed?
To get started, you need a strategy for (1) building your community and (2) strengthening your bonds with community members. In our increasingly digital world, this means:
- Meeting folks where they are (often online)
- Driving folks from social media (the channels that work best for you) to your compelling, user-friendly website (filled with gripping images and stories)
- Building your email list by offering donor-centered reasons why folks might want to join your list (“how to” lists, recommendations, e-books, whitepapers, “story of the month,” etc.)
- Communicating relevant information about outcomes (“news you can use”)
- Asking for specific support (use a ratio of 7 “helping” or “wooing” communications for every 1 “selling” communication)
- Sharing gratitude (acts of wooing and creative thank you’s and rewards)
- Reporting back regarding impact (stories, testimonials, videos)
How are you building and mobilizing your community in fresh and different ways? How are you developing long-term capacity to sustain your organization? How are you creating stronger, deeper relationships with constituents?
12 Top Tips to Build Community and Broaden Your Nonprofit Donor Base
1. Identify where your communities hang out.
How? Look for groups your current supporters participate in on LinkedIn. See where your influencers congregate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the like. What blogs do they read and share? What trends do they follow? Then… join these groups and discussions! Be supportive. When your donors share stories and articles, like and share them. Comment on their posts. Show you’re listening and paying attention. Offer up gifts of relevant content that showcase your areas of expertise. Be of service. There’s no one best platform; you need to use multiple channels to reach multiple generations and cultures.
2. Develop content to serve your communities.
What? Make sure your content achieves your objectives of course, but don’t just be self-serving. It’s not simply about what you do. It’s also about how supporters can make it possible for you to do itt. Find a bridge. Connect folks from the values you enact to the values they hold. And bowl your donors over with just how good you make them feel about engaging with you.
3. Be authentic and personal.
How? Don’t preach. Don’t just talk about your woes. Share real stories about what you’re doing, and encourage others to get involved. Make what you’re saying relevant by considering what may be top of mind for your supporters today. Don’t just recite a stale, formal mission statement.
4. Recruit influencers and cheerleaders who want to be your champions.
Who? Human beings love to follow the leader. We are great imitators. Who are your leaders? Who will people want to follow? Someone has to motivate others to step up to the plate. Look to your board and other key influencers who share the values your organization enacts. Who has oodles of passion and energy? Who is a super-motivated volunteer? Who has a great virtual rolodex and will be willing to activate it on your behalf?
5. Activate your networks, when appropriate, to create a sense of urgency.
How? Launch mini-campaigns, each with a goal and a defined time frame, to generate funding for specific projects. Ask for all hands on deck to meet these defined objectives.
6. Generate excitement.
How? Try a challenge grant. People love to stretch their giving… Wow! Or try a DIY peer-to-peer special event campaign. You’ll help people who are stumped as to what to give you for a birthday or wedding gift, and you’ll make them feel good in the process. Win/win.
7. Get organized.
What’s your plan? What are all the components of your campaign? Plan ahead so it’s not random.
8. Bring your tribe together.
Get your champions to give first (start with your board). Make them feel like heroes. Then ask them to go out to their peers and make them feel like heroes too.
9. Build trust.
There’s nothing more essential if you want sustainable philanthropy. How to do it? When it comes to asking, consider going peer-to-peer. When friends ask friends to give, it has a powerful impact because it triggers one of Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence and persaision, social proof. When it comes to gratitude and reporting, follow through on your promises. Thank people right away. Report back on the impact of the donor’s philanthropy.
10. Dip your toes in the water of online fundraising.
11. Close the circle by tying back to outcomes.
How? Thank your supporters promptly, personally and creatively. If your letter seems generic, ditch it and start over. Perhaps include some stories of who was helped. Use emotion. Tie the thank you to the specific purpose for which the gift was given. Let your donor know you reached your goal, with their help. Follow up in a month or two with more specific information about the impact of their donation. And don’t forget to give a name and contact information should they have questions or want to learn more. This is the basis for building friendships and the foundation of long-term sustainability.
12. Open up and broaden the circle.
How? Ask your supporters to share. Make them your partners. The best way to generate new support is to have your supporters tell their friends and family about their involvement. Use share buttons on everything. It’s the circle, the circle of philanthropy.
Hakuna matata… and don’t forget to have fun!
Want to Drive Greater Engagement?
Get the Nonprofit Blogging Handbook that Drives Engagement. Though it’s organized around blogging as a tool, the principles outlined are all about (1) how to attract supporters to your cause and (2) move them towards deepening levels of involvement and investment. You can get one volume, or all four (at a bargain bundle discount). There’s a ton of food for thought, and lots of practical tips. Not satisfied? There’s a 30-day-no-questions-asked 100% refund guarantee.